ICO to probe face recognition use at King's Cross
16 August 2019 13:34 GMT

The UK's Information Commissioner has reacted to the use of live facial recognition technology in King's Cross, London by a property developer.

Elizabeth Denham said: “Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives, in order to identify them, is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all. That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding.

“I remain deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, not only by law enforcement agencies but also increasingly by the private sector. My office and the judiciary are both independently considering the legal issues and whether the current framework has kept pace with emerging technologies and people’s expectations about how their most sensitive personal data is used.

“Facial recognition technology is a priority area for the ICO and when necessary, we will not hesitate use our investigative and enforcement powers to protect people’s legal rights.

“We have launched an investigation following concerns reported in the media regarding the use of live facial recognition in the King's Cross area of central London, which thousands of people pass through every day.

“As well as requiring detailed information from the relevant organisations about how the technology is used, we will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law.

“Put simply, any organisations wanting to use facial recognition technology must comply with the law - and they must do so in a fair, transparent and accountable way. They must have documented how and why they believe their use of the technology is legal, proportionate and justified.

“We support keeping people safe but new technologies and new uses of sensitive personal data must always be balanced against people’s legal rights.”

The Financial Times was the first to report a live face-scanning system was being used across the 67-acre (0.3-sq-km) site around King's Cross station in London.

Developer Argent said it used the technology to "ensure public safety" and it was just one of "a number of detection and tracking methods" in place at the site.