This is old news, but the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) launched an investigation into the use of facial recognition technology at King’s Cross following media reports of the covert practice in the summer of 2019. We’ve yet to have clarity on the practice.
Facial recognition systems involve using biometrics to map facial features from a photograph or video, before running this information through a database of known faces to find a match.
The UK Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said the use of cameras to track commuters and passers-by in the busy London area “is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all.”
“Put simply, any organisations wanting to use facial recognition technology must comply with the law – and they must do so in a fair, transparent and accountable way,” said Denham. “They must have documented how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified.”
“We support keeping people safe but new technologies and new uses of sensitive personal data must always be balanced against people’s legal rights,”
According to a spokesperson for the privately-owned area around King’s Cross station, the 67-acre site in central London is using the technology
“in the interest of public safety”.
Argent, the property developer for the King’s Cross estate, claimed in a statement that this is
“to ensure everyone who visits King’s Cross has the best possible experience”.
“We use cameras around the site, as do many other developments and shopping centres, as well as transport nodes, sports clubs and other areas where large numbers of people gather,”
read the statement.
“These cameras use a number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition, but also have sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public.”
In July, the ICO warned the police about the use of the technology, after a study found that 81 percent of ‘suspects’ flagged by Met’s police facial recognition technology are innocent, and that most people identified are not on police wanted lists.
The mayor of London Sadiq Khan also announced he was questioning the developer about its use of facial-recognition systems.
In July the House of Commons Science and Technology committee argued police trials should be halted until the relevant regulations were in place.
The UK biometrics commissioner Professor Paul Wiles has also expressed concern at the use of the technology.