Football fans were subjected to biometric scans on their way to the North London derby earlier this month. Madeleine Stone, senior advocacy officer at Big Brother Watch, explains why this Orwellian tech is a mortal threat to privacy. Ms. Stone argues:
“Being forced to hand over our fingerprints to the police in order to watch a football match would never be considered acceptable. But for the first time, the Met have taken this approach to the faceprints of football supporters.
Everyone exiting Highbury and Islington station on their way to the North London Derby earlier this month had their face scanned, mapped and checked against a vast database, by a facial recognition van parked directly outside the station.
The decision to target football supporters for biometric identity checks treats them like potential criminals.
Live facial scanning turns public spaces into a police line-up, where members of the public are treated with suspicion and can be identified at will by police cameras.
Of 191 alerts on the system since 2016, only 41 have been correct, and a miniscule 31 have led to arrests. At a time when police are under huge pressure and turn up to 999 calls hours late, this is hardly an effective use of resources.
The inaccuracy is worse for those of us who aren’t white men – leading research consistently demonstrates that facial recognition systems are less accurate for women and people of colour.
This means black and Asian Londoners are more likely to be wrongly flagged as criminals and made to prove their innocence due to a dodgy algorithm. This is stop and search on steroids.
London’s police force is already struggling in the wake of the Casey Report, which found that the force is institutionally racist, to regain the trust of Londoners.
The decision to invest in a discriminatory technology is misguided at best, or, at worse, an indicator that it is still business as usual at the Met.
Live facial recognition is inefficient, intrusive and discriminatory. It has no place in London.”