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Surge in police use of facial recognition sparks concerns over wrongful targeting

BRITISH police have ramped up their use of facial recognition tech in the last year, fuelling concerns about the wrongful targeting of innocent individuals.

A recent investigation by the i newspaper and Liberty has revealed a staggering 330 per cent surge in retrospective facial recognition searches in 2022.

More than 85,000 searches were made — four times the number recorded in 2021.

The technology uses images, typically captured from CCTV, mobile phones, and social media, to match crime suspects against the Police National Database, which holds more than 16 million images of arrested individuals.

Many of those on the database were never charged or acquitted of a criminal offence after their arrest.

Chris Jones, director of Statewatch, said: “There is a significant possibility for innocent people to be wrongly identified and potentially even charged and convicted through the use of this technology.” 

Mr Jones warned that use of RFR could perpetuate discriminatory profiling: “We should also be asking who those people are most likely to be. 

“The Casey Review confirmed that the Metropolitan Police are institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic, while Avon and Somerset’s own chief constable has admitted her force is institutionally racist.”

Senior advocacy officer at Big Brother Watch Madeline Stone flagged transparency concerns over the forces’ rapid rollout.

She said: “This spike in the use of retrospective facial recognition technology comes despite a lack of safeguards, regulation, or even parliamentary debate. 

“We urgently need a democratic, lawful approach to the role of facial biometrics in Britain, and without this, police forces should not be using this Orwellian technology at all.”

A Home Office spokesperson said facial recognition plays “a crucial role” in helping police tackle serious offences. 

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