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UK court endorses use of facial recognition technology

Publish date: 10 September 2019
Issue Number: 4779
Diary: Legalbrief Today
Category: Privacy

Police use of facial recognition technology infringes citizens' rights to privacy but may still be lawful, the UK High Court has ruled, dismissing on all grounds a claim for judicial review on the grounds of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Data Protection Act 2018. A Law Gazette report notes that in Edward Bridges v Chief Constable of South Wales Police, civil liberties campaigner Edward Bridges told the High Court in Cardiff that the use of automatic facial recognition (AFR) technology by South Wales Police was contrary to convention rights and data protection legislation. Bridges believes his face had been scanned twice by police cameras, once in Cardiff city centre and once at a peaceful protest. In both cases, his data would have been automatically and immediately discarded after being found not to match that of people of interest to the police. In judgment, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Mr Justice Swift found that AFR did interfere with the right to private life under Article 8 of the European Convention. They ruled that even the momentary storing of biometric data is enough to trigger Article 8. However, the court ruled that there was a lawful basis for AFR’s use and the legal framework applied by the police was proportionate. Bridges was supported by campaign group Liberty. Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: ‘This disappointing judgment does not reflect the very serious threat that facial recognition poses to our rights and freedoms. Facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all.’ Bridges plans to appeal the judgment.

Full Law Gazette report