As reported by London’s Metropolitan Police on Friday, January 24, the organization is going to deploy facial recognition system to facilitate tracking suspects wanted criminals and missing persons.

According to the announcement, the said devices are to be deployed at “specific locations” and will not be a part of the existing surveillance cameras network which already incorporates about 627,000 cameras, most of these privately-owned. Each device will have a “bespoke watch list” to check for possible matches.

Police officials grounded the need for such a move by appealing to the necessity to move with the times and adopt new technologies in order to enhance public security.

“As a modern police force, I believethat we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London,” – the Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, Nick Ephgrave, said, adding that the technology would help London police combat violent crime.

Meanwhile, civil liberties groups are uniformly concerned about this move:

“As a highly intrusive surveillance technique, [facial recognition] can provide authorities with new opportunities to undermine democracy under the cloak of defending it,” – the London-based watchdog Privacy International said in a statement.

According to Silkie Carlo, director of another UK-based civil activist organization Big Brother Watch, the introduction of such a surveillance system in the UK may only encourage authoritarian regimes in South America, Asia and elsewhere to further breach people’s privacy.

Recent years have seen the rapid advancement of machine learning-powered facial recognition technology. It remains highly controversial, however, due to its partially flawed operation. For instance (and apart from related people’s privacy concerns), without diverse training data it can work better on some types of people (usually white males) than others.

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