Police Scotland have been caught uploading custody shots of people who may not ever even be convicted or have even been charged to the national police database and then searching it using facial recognition technology. Over 600,000 photos of almost 335,000 people are involved.
The facial recognition technology can be used to cross-reference images of suspects from crime scenes with images of individuals kept on the database. However, experts have also raised concerns the system could be abused.
There is currently no framework to stipulate the circumstances in which the technology should be used – meaning it could be used to identify people from football matches or political protests. Fishing expeditions such as these could lead to potential wrongful accusations.
Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes found this out through Freedom of Information requests. She said:<!–more–>
<blockquote>These staggering figures reveal that the biometric images of some 300,000 Scots have been trawled on hundreds of occasions by Police Scotland using unregulated facial recognition technology. This confirms they are using this intrusive software.
We don’t know the reasons why each of the 440 searches conducted by Police Scotland took place.
The photos of over 300,000 Scots are among the 18 million across the UK included on this national database. The combination of this database with the new facial recognition software has triggered concerns about the protection of our civil liberties. It has already been condemned by the High Court, a parliamentary committee and the independent Biometrics Commissioner.
Without adequate legal safeguards, there is nothing to stop the police from using this technology for mass surveillance. It could be used to identify protesters at political events or football fans, stifling freedom of speech. I also have real concerns that the privacy of innocent people could be comprised and they could be exposed to the risk of false identification.
Facial recognition technology has the potential to be a useful policing tool in detecting crime and making our communities safer. But, like other biometric identification technologies such as fingerprinting and DNA profiling, it is essential that this intrusive software is properly regulated. It appears it isn’t currently the subject of a robust legal framework or clear reporting processes.
SNP Ministers need to urgently clarify how they are ensuring our civil liberties are protected and this technology is used appropriately.</blockquote>
If Alison McInnes didn’t exist, we would really have to invent her.