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Facial recognition activist takes flight to Appeal Court

AN ACTIVIST who brought the world’s first court challenge over police use of facial recognition technology took his fight to the Court of Appeal today.

Ed Bridges, 37, from Cardiff, brought legal action at the High Court last year, saying his face was scanned while doing Christmas shopping in 2017 and at a peaceful anti-arms protest in 2018.

His lawyers argued that the use of automatic facial recognition (AFR) by South Wales Police had caused him distress and violated his privacy and data protection rights by processing an image taken of him in public.

However, his case was dismissed in September by two leading judges, who said that the use of the technology was not unlawful.

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave and Mr Justice Swift concluded that they were satisfied that the current legal regime was adequate to “ensure appropriate and non-arbitrary use of AFR” and that the force’s use to date of the technology had been consistent with human rights and data protection laws.

But Mr Bridges was given permission to appeal against that ruling in November.

Dan Squires QC, representing Mr Bridges, said in written submissions today: “If AFR is rolled out nationally, it will change radically the way that Britain is policed.

“Put simply, connected to a database with the right information, AFR could be used to identify very large numbers of people in a given place at a given time — for example, those present at a protest the police are monitoring.

“It could also track the movements of individuals as they move around the country without them knowing they were being monitored.”

The appeal is being heard over three days by Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton, President of the Queen’s Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp and Lord Justice Singh, who are expected to give their ruling at a later date.

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