Back in February 2015 it was revealed that over 18 million custody images had been uploaded to a searchable police database. It is thought that many of these images were of innocent people. It was done without informing either the Biometrics Commissioner or the Home Office.
The scheme was the subject of widespread criticism from MPs, civil liberties groups and the Biometrics Commissioner himself. A review of the practice was announced and has now been completed.
In December 2016 we submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Home Office asking for a copy of the report and whether or not a publication date had been set.
In answer to our first question the Home Office concluded that “as the publication will take place shortly, it is reasonable to require you to wait for publication”. Despite this the response did reveal that the Custody Image Review would be released “early in 2017”.
We await the publication of the Review, as well as the Government’s now long overdue Biometrics Strategy, with interest. Facial recognition is a technology which poses a very real threat to our privacy and the Home Office needs to start showing some real leadership on it.