UK court rules that police can use face recognition
04 September 2019 16:46 GMT

A British court ruled on Wednesday that police use of facial recognition systems does not violate privacy and human rights.

The mass surveillance system interferes with the privacy rights of those scanned by security cameras, two judges in Cardiff have concluded, but it is not illegal.

The legal challenge was brought by Ed Bridges, a former Liberal Democrat councillor from the Welsh city.

Bridges said he was distressed by police use of the technology, which he believes captured his image while out shopping.

In a press summary of the case lord justice Haddon-Cave and justice Swift said they refused the legal case "on all grounds". They say the automatic facial recognition system meets the requirements of the Human Rights Act and is already "subject to sufficient legal controls" through the UK's Data Protection Act.

"The Court… concluded that this processing of personal data was lawful and met the conditions set out in the legislation, in particular the conditions set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 which apply to law enforcement authorities such as South Wales Police," the judges said. 

South Wales Police has been trialling facial recognition since 2017 and said it has been used to help detect and prevent crime.

It has used facial recognition in public spaces on over 50 occasions since May 2017. Thousands of people have been scanned without their knowledge or consent, including at high profile sporting events such as the Champions League Final in 2017 and Six Nations rugby matches, and music events such as Ed Sheeran concerts. It has come to be used routinely as part of South Wales Police’s everyday policing.