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What do you think?

February 26, 2024 by Alistair Enser

This week, we are doing a survey. I would really value your opinions on facial recognition technology, so please do take the very short survey linked at the end.

Giving the police a helping hand

My interest in doing a survey comes on the back of an interview that the Policing Minister, Chris Philp, recently gave to Policing Insight. In the interview (linked here behind a paywall), the Minister confirmed his support for police use of facial recognition technology:

“I want to see every single police force significantly scaling up its use of retrospective facial recognition. It should become a routine part of every investigation where there is an image.”

He didn’t restrict his support to retrospective, post-event or forensic use of the technology, either, as he also advocated for live facial recognition (LFR):

“The Met have only used it a handful of times and it’s already yielded very significant results, as it did in Essex when they used it. I want to see all police forces now using LFR in line with the Authorised Professional Practice.”

Frictionless borders

Also in the news this week was a suggestion by Phil Douglas, the director general of Border Force, that frictionless border controls might come to the UK, based on facial recognition technology.

Impressed by schemes in Australia and Dubai, he has previously argued that: “In the future, you won’t need a passport – you’ll just need biometrics.” The idea is to make border controls frictionless but secure.

The pros and the cons

I have written extensively in the past on this subject and carefully weighed both the pros and cons.

It strikes me that many of the arguments against the use of facial recognition technology amount to little more than fear-mongering. They ignore developments that can effectively eliminate bias, and increase system capabilities to the point that accuracy exceeds that of even highly trained border control staff. Of course, like any technology, there are better and worse versions- with the best facial recognition systems now making only one mistake in a million, a failure rate equivalent to 0.0001%. I wrote about this before, here.

On the other hand, facial recognition technology cannot be ‘judge and jury’ alone. People must be at the heart of its use, and verify the results it delivers. What’s more, the potential frequency of cyber security attacks, data protection issues around the technology, and access to the visual data it creates are challenges that cannot be easily dismissed. Some have warned about the lack of sufficient rules around the use of the technology.

What do you think?

It’s clear that the successful roll-out of facial recognition technology will largely depend on the degree to which we, as individuals, accept its use – and even then, perhaps only for certain applications such as crime prevention.

But what do you think?

Does facial recognition technology – live or retrospective – have a role to play ‘today’ in policing, border control and similar applications?

On the back of the results of this survey I am going to speak to some of the key players in the development of this technology and put your responses to them, so I would greatly value your opinion.

Please answer the very quick survey here.