Facial Recognition Technology in King’s Cross Under Scrutiny

The UK’s data privacy watchdog has opened an investigation into the use of facial recognition cameras in one of the busiest parts of central London.

The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, announced she would look into the technology being used in Granary Square, close to King’s Cross station.

King’s Cross railway station, is a passenger railway terminus on the edge of Central London. It is one of the busiest stations in the United Kingdom and is on the Main Line to North East England and Scotland. Beneath the main line stations is King’s Cross St Pancras tube station on the London Underground. Combined, they form one of the country’s largest transport hubs.

According to The Guardian newspaper, The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has already written to the development’s owner demanding to know whether the company believed its use of facial recognition software in its CCTV systems was legal.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it was “deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces” and was seeking detailed information about how it is used.

On August 15, the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham issues the following statement:

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives, in order to identify them, is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all. That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding.

“I remain deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, not only by law enforcement agencies but also increasingly by the private sector. My office and the judiciary are both independently considering the legal issues and whether the current framework has kept pace with emerging technologies and people’s expectations about how their most sensitive personal data is used.

“Facial recognition technology is a priority area for the ICO and when necessary, we will not hesitate to use our investigative and enforcement powers to protect people’s legal rights.

“We have launched an investigation following concerns reported in the media regarding the use of live facial recognition in the King’s Cross area of central London, which thousands of people pass through every day.

“As well as requiring detailed information from the relevant organisations about how the technology is used, we will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law.

“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. 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.”

The ICO had previously warned businesses using the surveillance technology that they needed to demonstrate that its use is “strictly necessary and proportionate” and has a clear basis in law.

Source: The Guardian

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