Most British lawmakers lack awareness and understanding of the deployment and privacy implications of facial recognition technology (FRT), reveals a study conducted by Privacy International. The study involved polling 114 UK MPs and found that over two-thirds of respondents are unsure if FRT is being utilized in their constituencies.
Additionally, more than half of the MPs either do not know or incorrectly believe there is existing legislation governing the use of FRT. The study highlights a critical gap in knowledge, with only a third of MPs recognizing FRT as a threat to human rights, including the right to protest.
Facial recognition technology employs artificial intelligence to extract biometric data from facial images captured by CCTV cameras and matches it against records on a watchlist. Despite bans on FRT in 16 US cities and forthcoming restrictions in the EU AI Act, the regulatory response in the UK has been deemed inadequate by Privacy International. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) had previously called for the introduction of a statutory code of practice for FRT deployment. In the absence of concrete guidelines, both police and private sector firms in the UK continue to use the technology, raising concerns about privacy in public spaces.
The study points out that South Wales Police persist in using FRT even after a court ruling declared its previous deployment unlawful. Privacy International emphasizes the urgent need for public awareness and regulatory action. The organization launched an awareness-raising campaign to stimulate public debate and encourage individuals to hold their MPs accountable for the use of facial recognition technology.
Privacy International argues that without proper safeguards, FRT is becoming normalized in democratic societies, posing a threat to privacy without adequate protections or oversight.