Big Brother Watch has taken a fresh stance against the rollout of facial recognition cameras in towns across Britain.
The civil liberties and privacy campaigning organisation took to Twitter earlier today, saying:
“Facial recognition surveillance means our identities are checked en masse. That’s a reversal of the presumption of innocence that’s so at the heart of British civil liberties. It needs to be banned NOW!”
In a video accompanying the tweet, Director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, condemned police reliance on facial recognition technology, stating:
“Never before have members of the public been treated like walking ID cards, subjected to an ongoing police line-up, that our identities have to be biometrically checked to make sure that we’re not criminals.
“That’s a complete inversion of the traditional presumption of innocence that is so at the heart of British civil liberties. That’s why I think that this is none [sic] less than an assault on our rights.”
The remarks follow reports last week of how thousands of shoppers in Stratford, London, had their faces scanned by facial recognition cameras that had been deployed by London’s Metropolitan Police on Tuesday 11th February.
On Twitter, the Met said that the measures were “part of a proactive policing operation to focus on violent and other serious offences.”
The cameras were placed on top of a dark blue police van and surrounded by signage alerting passers-by to the police activity, and informing them that there was “no legal requirement…to pass through the LFR (live facial recognition) system,” said the Met’s lead on crime prevention, Commander Mark McEwen.
In response to Mr McEwen’s words, Siân Berry, co-leader of the Green Party, argued that by the time pedestrians had seen the signage, their faces would have already been scanned.
“The police have gone ahead and used [facial recognition] in defiance of some serious warnings that have been issued by people like the information commissioner, the surveillance camera commissioner and the biometric commissioner.”
Nisson Omran, a 19-year old student from Kingston University was at the scene. Speaking to the Financial Times online, Omran said:
“I think it’s ridiculous, it’s an invasion of privacy. They have no consent. And why have they picked Stratford? If it hasn’t been passed and debated in parliament, I don’t know how they can use it.”
Silkie Carlo was stood near the police surveillance van holding a sign which read: “Stop facial recognition.”
Speaking to the Guardian, Ms Carlo said:
“If we let this slide, this is going to be the beginning of something much worse. If they are successful in rolling this out and the legal challenges don’t work we will see this on CCTV networks pretty soon.”
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