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Controversial facial recognition implemented on London's Oxford Street

Tom Shearsmith
21 February 2020

Today, City of Westminster Police confirmed the implementation and roll-out of Live Facial Recognition technology at key locations in Westminster today, including popular shopping locations like Oxford Street and Regent Street.

The live facial recognition technology scans the face of every person, matching them against a database of 5,000 people wanted for serious crimes. The cameras are positioned on the rooftops of special vans, parked at key locations throughout the city.

Despite protests from concerned members of the public, judges ruled that although automated facial recognition amounted to interference with privacy rights, there was a lawful basis for it and the legal framework used by the police was proportionate.

In a bid to minimise privacy concerns, images of innocent members of the public will be automatically pixelated and discarded at the end of the day.

Recent trials saw cameras used at the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford and London's West End, while operational use began earlier this month at the Stratford Centre.

Campaigns group Big Brother Watch, who protested the van’s previous deployment outside Westfield Stratford, responded on social media stating that the Metropolitan Police's tweet “is a lie”.

The Metropolitan Police have confirmed the vans pose no risk to innocent shoppers and tourists, nor will they act in secret. Confirming guidelines including:

  • to tell people online where they are going to use LFR before any deployment.
  • publish the results of each deployment on the Met website.
  • provide information leaflets to give to the public.
  • place posters and signs in and around the area to make people aware the technology is being used.
  • make officers available to talk to members of the public to help explain what's happening and how LFR works.

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