The UK’s House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee has called for the police and other authorities to halt facial-recognition trials due to concerns over the technology’s accuracy and inherent bias.
“There is growing evidence from respected, independent bodies that the ‘regulatory [gap]’ surrounding the use of automatic facial recognition has called the legal basis of the trials into question. The Government, however, seems to not realize or to concede that there is a problem,” the committee, which has representation from the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties, wrote in a report.
The report also highlights an argument from Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties organization in the UK, that described how 10 million images held on the police’s national database was made searchable by facial-recognition technology in 2014, “which occurred without parliamentary or public scrutiny.”
The government is supposed to review stored images at least every six years, and delete those it doesn’t need. During those six-year periods, meanwhile, citizens are allowed to request that their images be removed. But only 67 applications for deletion were submitted between February and October 2017, and of only 34 were removed, the report finds. It doesn’t appear images are being reviewed as required.
“It is unclear whether police forces are unaware of the requirement to review custody images every six years, or if they are simply ‘struggling to comply,'” the report finds. “What is clear, however, is that they have not been afforded any earmarked resources to assist with the manual review and weeding process.”
Baroness Williams, Minister of State for Countering Extremism and Minister of State for Equalities, “previously promised improvements to IT systems that would have facilitated automatic deletion,” the report continues. “Such improvements now appear to have been delayed indefinitely. As such, the burden remains on individuals to know that they have the right to request deletion of their image.”
This news comes after Home Secretary Savid Javid issued his support to London’s Metropolitan Police running facial-recognition trials, even though an independent report criticised the accuracy of the technology. The trial saw the facial recognition system pick out 46 faces during the trial period, but of those only eight were actually in the police’s watchlist.
Facial-recognition technology is still a work in progress. The biggest issue right now is…it often doesn’t actually work, from incorrectly labeling US lawmakers as criminals to issues of bias. As a result, three US cities—San Francisco, Somerville in Massachusetts, and Oakland in California—have banned law enforcement from using facial-recognition technology for now.