£200,000 facial recognition spend resulted in no arrests

The Independent has revealed that Britain’s largest police force has spent more than £200,000 on controversial facial recognition trials that resulted in no arrests.

Via a freedom of information request, the newspaper claims that the Metropolitan Police spent over £222,000 on several live facial recognition trials – not including the cost of uniformed and undercover officers – and didn’t make a single arrest. In fact, six deployments were made by the police which resulted in only two people being stopped, and then released.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council is reported to be considering drawing up national guidance on how the technology should be used, despite the lack of arrests during trials, in a move that critics have labelled as a ‘shambles’ and a waste of public money.

Trials carried out between August 2016 and July last year saw 110 people’s faces registered as potential ‘alerts’ against watchlists of wanted criminals, the majority of which came at 2017’s Notting Hill Carnival. Despite the police saying that members of the public were informed facial recognition was being used by posters and leaflets, the Independent claims that no one questioned after having passed through a scanning zone in central London in December had seen police publicity material, causing campaigners to suggest that the technology is being rolled out ‘by stealth’.

Human right group Liberty has since accused Scotland Yard of launching a ‘creeping expansion’ of the technology without fully engaging with discrimination and human rights concerns.

Silkie Carlo, director of Human Rights group Big Brother Watch, said: “I think members of the public will be disappointed to see the police have spent over £200,000 in this shambles experiment playing with facial recognition and citizens’ liberties. The figures show, yet again, that this authoritarian surveillance is dangerously inaccurate and poses a serious risk to public freedoms.”

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