London’s Metropolitan Police have deployed the UK’s first live facial recognition CCTV at Westfield Stratford shopping centre despite serious doubts over the technology’s effectiveness.
Westfield Stratford was targeted by the Met’s high-tech van-mounted CCTV camera yesterday, scanning the faces of anyone leaving the shopping centre and checking them against a database of 5000 offenders wanted for “serious criminality”.
According to the Met’s lead on crime prevention Mark McEwan, the shopping centre was targeted because of various incidences of “public space violence” and that this was a deployment based on intelligence.
The Met will deploy Live Facial Recognition on Tuesday 11 February at key locations in #Stratford between 1100 – 1630.
This is part of a proactive policing operation to focus on violent and other serious offences.#TacklingViolenceTogether
— Metropolitan Police (@metpoliceuk) February 10, 2020
Around two dozen uniformed police stood by the van, which was surrounded by signs telling passers by that there was “no legal requirement for them to pass through the LFR (live facial recognition) system”, fielding questions from the public and standing off against picketers.
The deployment has been shrouded in controversy over issues of both privacy and its effectiveness.
According to privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch (BBW) 93 per cent of those stopped during the Met’s previous 10 public trials were wrongly identified.
We’re alarmed by the Met’s decision to target Stratford with facial recognition surveillance yet again. This will be the THIRD time the surveillance has been imposed on this diverse area and both previous operations led to a 100% misidentification rate (..)
— Big Brother Watch (@BigBrotherWatch) February 10, 2020
A further study published last month by a surveillance expert from Essex University Professor Pete Fussey, who conducted the only independent review of the Met’s trials, found that just 19 per cent of people identified were done so accurately.
The Met has contested these figures, stating that their system correctly identified 70 per cent of people who walked past the camera, with an error rate of just 1 in 1000.
McEwan added that the Met was now using the most up-to-date algorithm for the system, and he was “the most accurate technology available to us”.