Bermuda Post

Wednesday, Sep 23, 2020

British court: facial recognition violates human rights

British court: facial recognition violates human rights

The use of facial recognition technology by British police has violated human rights and data protection laws, a court ruled on Tuesday, in a decision that was hailed as a victory against invasive practices by the authorities.
In a case listed as the first of its kind, Britain's Court of Appeal issued its ruling Tuesday in relation to the case brought by human rights defender Ed Bridges, who argued that the South Wales police provoked him “ anguish ”when scanning her face while shopping in 2017 and when she attended a peaceful anti-gun protest in 2018.

Appellate judges ruled that the way the system was being used during the trials was unlawful. The decision does not necessarily mean that facial recognition cannot be used at all, but rather that authorities should be more careful in how they implement it.

The judges said they faced two questions about how the technology is applied: who is caught on surveillance cameras and where. "In relation to both issues, too much discretion is currently left to the police officers," they noted.

The ruling notes that there was no clear evidence that the software was biased on the basis of race or gender. But the judges said law enforcement agencies using the controversial new technology would like to be satisfied that every reasonable thing that could be done has been done to ensure that the software being used is not racially or gender biased.

Megan Goulding, an attorney for the civil rights group Liberty, which backed Bridges' complaint, said facial recognition systems are discriminatory and oppressive.

The court has agreed that this dystopian surveillance tool violates our rights and threatens our freedoms," Goulding said. Facial recognition is discriminatory to people of color, and it is absolutely correct that the court found that the South Wales police had failed in their duty to investigate and prevent discrimination.

Police said they had already made some changes to the use of technology during the time they have handled the case.
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