Met Police to begin using facial recognition cameras in London

Use of the facial recognition cameras in London will be intelligence-led, the Met said, with a bespoke watch list of suspects — predominantly those wanted for serious and violent offences — drawn up for each deployment.

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The cameras are due to be put into action in London within a month. The force said it would consult with communities before installing the cameras.

The Met said they would be focused on a “small, targeted area” to scan passersby and would be clearly signposted, with officers handing out leaflets to members of the public nearby.

Assistant commissioner Nick Ephgrave said the use of live facial recognition technology was “vital in assisting us in bearing down on violence”.

We all want to live and work in a city which is safe: the public rightly expect us to use widely available technology to stop criminals,” he added.

“Equally I have to be sure that we have the right safeguards and transparency in place to ensure that we protect people’s privacy and human rights. I believe our careful and considered deployment of live facial recognition strikes that balance.”

The Met’s decision to bring the technology into operational use follows earlier pilot schemes in the capital, as well as deployments by South Wales Police.

In London, the cameras have been trialed in areas including Stratford’s Westfield shopping centre.

Ephgrave said “similar technology” to that being introduced by the Met “is already widely used across the UK, in the private sector”.

What is Live Facial Recognition?

Live Facial Recognition (LFR) is technology that can help locate a person from a digital image. Met is using this technology to prevent and detect crime by helping officers find wanted criminals.

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LFR cameras are focused on an area; when people pass through the area their images are streamed directly to the live facial recognition system. This system contains a ‘watchlist’: a list of offenders wanted by the police or the courts, or those who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.

How the facial recognition cameras in London system works?

The Met currently uses NEC’s NeoFace Live Facial Recognition technology to take images and compare them to images of people on the watchlist. It measures the structure of each face, including distance between eyes, nose, mouth and jaw to create a facial template.

Where it finds a match it sends an alert to officers on the scene.

An officer then compares the camera image to the person they see and decides whether to speak to the person or not.

Met always explain why we’ve stopped someone; we also give them a leaflet that explains how they can contact us to ask further questions.

The system will only keep images that have generated an alert, these are kept for up to 31 days or, if an arrest is made, until any investigation or judicial process is concluded.

The biometric data of those who don’t cause an alert is automatically and immediately deleted. The LFR system also records CCTV footage, we keep that footage for up to 31 days.

Anyone can decide not to walk past the LFR system; it’s not an offence or considered ‘obstruction’ to avoid it.

How Met is using facial recognition

Met police completed ten trials using Live Facial Recognition technology to find out if it was a useful policing tactic to deter and prevent crime and bring wanted criminals to justice.

It was tested in a range of environments including public events and crowded public spaces. It will now be used to aid policing operations where we have intelligence that supports its use.

Wherever they use it, we’ll do so openly. That means they’ll:

  • tell people online where they’re going to use LFR before any deployment
  • publish the results of each deployment on the Met website
  • provide information leaflets to give to the public
  • place posters and signs in and around the area to make people aware the technology is being used
  • make officers available to talk to members of the public to help explain what’s happening and how LFR works
How the law lets us use facial recognition
These laws and legislation allow us to use facial recognition in the way we’ve described:
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