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11th February 2020
Solent University Post Doctoral Researcher, Dr Garfield Benjamin, had his submission to the Scottish Parliament Justice Sub-Committee on Policing relating to facial recognition cited in the Sub-Committee's report released today.

Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing has said that current live facial recognition technology is not fit for use by Police Scotland. It goes on to say that before introducing the technology, it needs to demonstrate the legal basis they would rely on for its use; the technology’s compliance with human rights and data protection legislation; and that the biases in it which discriminate against ethnic minorities and women have been eliminated. Without these safeguards in place, the Sub-Committee concluded any investment in the technology would be unjustifiable.

In his written evidence, Dr Garfield Benjamin raised particular concern about the police service collecting and retaining data on children without their consent: “The UK Children’s Commissioner released a report on children’s privacy and the shocking amount of data that is collected and shared about children, often without their permission or even knowledge. The report highlights how more needs to be done to ensure that children’s privacy is respected, and researchers have found that children want greater transparency over their data.”

He also argued that it cannot be considered that consent is given for the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, as this changes the role of the public and the police: “We must ask ourselves the cost, in terms of freedom, trust and inclusivity, of surveillance technology. And we must not only regulate but develop and test such technologies according to the ethical and societal values we wish to embody.”

In his written evidence, Dr Garfield Benjamin highlights the global context moving away from facial recognition. Morocco has temporarily prohibited the use of facial recognition technology by the police service and a broader moratorium bill is currently being considered in Massachusetts.

Following the publication of the report, Dr Garfield says: “Facial recognition in public spaces fundamentally changes how we interact with the police. It places everyone in a police lineup every time we leave the house. The conclusions of the report, and the decision by Police Scotland not to use facial recognition at this time, is a welcome push towards respect, consent and protecting human rights.”

 Photo credit: Peter Linforth from PIxabay