Police facial recognition software was wrong 90% of the time
Facial recognition software is ‘almost entirely inaccurate’ and UK police forces should stop using it immediately, civil liberties campaigners warned today.
Big Brother Watch, through Freedom of Information requests, revealed 98 per cent of the Metropolitan Police’s ‘matches’ were wrong and in South Wales Police the figure was 91 per cent.
The software is used at the Notting Hill Carnival, sporting fixtures and music concerts to detect people on a watch list, including wanted criminals. Director of Big Brother Watch Silkie Carlo said: ‘We’re seeing ordinary people being asked to produce ID to prove their innocence as police are wrongly identifying thousands of innocent citizens as criminals. ‘It is deeply disturbing and undemocratic that police are using a technology that is almost entirely inaccurate, that they have no legal power for, and that poses a major risk to our freedoms.
‘This has wasted millions in public money and the cost to our civil liberties is too high. It must be dropped.’ Figures released by the Metropolitan Police showed there had been 102 false positives – cases where someone was incorrectly matched to a photo – and only two that were correct.
Neither of those was arrested – one was no longer wanted by police, and the other was classed as a ‘fixated individual’ who attended a Remembrance Day event. For South Wales, 2,451 out of 2,685 matches were found to be incorrect – 91%. Of the remaining 234, there were 110 interventions and 15 arrests. The force used the software at Uefa Champions League 2017 final in Cardiff, international rugby matches and Liam Gallagher and Kasabian concerts.
Big Brother Watch said South Wales Police had stored pictures from both false positive and true positive matches for 12 months, meaning images of more than 2,000 innocent people were stored by the force without the subjects’ knowledge. Scotland Yard said the force uses facial recognition technology on a trial basis and it was used at Notting Hill Carnivals and the 2017 Remembrance Sunday service ‘to assess if it could assist police in identifying known offenders in large events, in order to protect the wider public.’ A Met spokesman said: ‘Additional checks and balances are in place to confirm identification following system alerts.’