Met Police arrest 13 people in two days using ‘dystopian’ facial recognition cameras


London’s Metropolitan Police have arrested over a dozen people in two days using controversial Live Facial Recognition technology in Croydon.

The operation which took place on Saturday 20 January and Tuesday 23 January consisted of LFR cameras being focused on a specific area in Croydon and as people pass through that area their images are streamed directly to the Live Facial Recognition system.

Ahead of the deployment police upload images of criminals who are wanted onto a database. Met Police say this system contains a “watchlist” of offenders who are wanted by the police and/or courts and those who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.

The technology in real time scans people’s faces who are walking through an area to see if there is a match.

As a result, eight people were arrested for the following:

• A 25-year-old woman for failing to appear at court for the offence of criminal damage

• A 21-year-old man for failing to appear at court for theft

• A 23-year-old man for failing to appear at court for theft

• A 26-year-old man for failing to appear at court for theft from motor vehicle

• A 39-year-old man for failing to appear for drugs-related offences

• A 32-year-old man wanted for failing to appear for theft

• A 21-year-old man wanted on a recall to prison for the offence of burglary

• A 23-year-old man wanted for breach of tag conditions.

Police reported that the operation was “a direct result of listening to community concerns about serious violence and other issues like theft and criminal damage in the Croydon area”.

They said Live facial recognition technology is used in order to be “more precise in how we tackle crime and identify wanted offenders” and is intended to target those who are “most responsible for causing serious violence.”

However civil liberties groups have lambasted the scheme as “dystopian”.

Madeleine Stone Senior Advocacy Officer at Big Brother Watch, a campaign group, said that the technology “turns the streets of Britain into AI-powered police line-ups, with innocent members of the public being subject to biometric identity checks as they go about their business.”

She saidL “Everyone wants dangerous criminals off the street, but papering over the cracks of a creaking policing system with intrusive and Orwellian surveillance technology is not the solution.

“Police have written their own rules on how this dystopian technology can be used, allowing victims and witnesses of crimes to be placed on watchlists, as well as peaceful protesters and people with mental health conditions.

“The UK’s reckless approach to face surveillance makes us a total outlier in the democratic world, and more in step with the likes of China and Russia. This Orwellian tech has no place in Britain and must be banned.”

Last year human rights organisation Liberty raised concerns about racial profiling using the new technology after a study by the National Physical Laboratory found that it was eleven times more likely to misidentify black women rather than white women.

However police denied the claim after an independent review into the technology found that it “did not discriminate”.

Lindsey Chiswick, responsible for live facial recognition in the Met, said:“As part of our commitment to deliver a better service for communities we are listening to local feedback and deploying this technology to local areas to tackle crime.

“Identifying harmful criminals has always been a fundamental part of policing, but we are adapting this with the assistance of technology.

“Where there is no match, all images are immediately and automatically destroyed.

“Live facial recognition technology allows us to more efficiently identify offenders and reduce harmful criminality on our streets.”

Chief Superintendent Andy Brittain, who leads policing in Croydon, said: “We hope people in Croydon who have shared concerns about crime in their area can see how we are using a range of tools to help reduce this.

“Officers have made 13 arrests using live facial recognition during the last two deployments in Croydon covering a range of offences. Local officers have been supporting the deployments to inform residents about how we are using this.”

Information on the Met Police website says: “LFR is not a ubiquitous tool that uses lots of CCTV cameras from across London to track every person’s movements. It is a carefully deployed overt policing tactic to help locate a limited number of people the police need to find in order to keep London safe.”