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Police to Implement Facial Recognition at Cardiff-Swansea Football Match

South Wales Police has announced that it will be deploying facial recognition technology at the upcoming football match between Cardiff City FC and Swansea City FC at Cardiff City Stadium this Sunday, 12 January.

In a statement, South Wales Police said: “We will be deploying our facial recognition technology at key areas ahead of the match to assist in identifying those have been issued with banning orders and may attempt to attend the game.”

This comes after the same technology was used by the police when the two teams played each other earlier in the season, a move that, despite causing some controversy regarding privacy concerns, was found to be legally justified and proportionate by the High Court back in September 2019.

Assistant chief constable Andy Valentine said: “This is only the third time in more than two-and-a-half years that the technology has been utilized at a football match and is intended to prevent disorder that has in the past affected matches involving both clubs.

“We are deploying Automated Facial Recognition to prevent offences by identifying individuals who are wanted for questioning for football-related offences or who have been convicted of football-related criminality and are now subject to football banning orders that preclude them from attending.

Football banning orders are issued by the court to those who have misbehaved at a previous football game and hence this provides us with a clear rational in our strategy to prevent any crime and disorder, he added.

“In line with our standard operating procedures, the data of all those captured by the technology on the day, but not on the watch list, will have their data instantaneously deleted.  

However, the news has once again raised privacy concerns and critical comments from the likes of Big Brother Watch, Football Supporters’ Association Wales and North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, along with security experts.

Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET, said: “Facial recognition software is still very much in its early stages of production and there are many instances of it making mistakes or false positives.

“Something needs to be done in such large gatherings of people but until such a system is in place that can be completely trusted in terms of security and it’s function, I think it could do more harm than good.” 

In November 2019, the UK’s privacy watchdog raised “serious concerns” about police use of facial recognition technology, and called for the introduction of a statutory code of practice to govern when and how it should be deployed.

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