Police using facial recognition to target protesters: find out if you’re on a watchlist

Big Brother Watch Team / November 15, 2023

Big Brother Watch’s recent investigation into Northamptonshire police’s use of live facial recognition at the Grand Prix in July 2023 revealed that two-thirds (over 500) of people on the force’s secret watchlist were not wanted for arrest or suspected of criminal activity.

We believe Northamptonshire police were using facial recognition to identify protesters, particularly environmental protesters, and so are urging anyone who thinks they might have been placed on a watchlist to submit a Subject Access Request to the police.



This is a template subject access request (SAR) that you can use to request the personal data that a police force holds about you.

Only if you don’t mind sharing your identity: Please note that you can only get your personal information via a SAR if you can prove that you really are who you say you are. That often means that you have to send a email of your ID to the organisation in question. Obviously, this is not risk free and does involve intrusion. If there is another way to verify you are who you say you are, e.g. your email address is listed on a staff/faculty webpage and you’re submitting the request from that same email address, you can tell them that that should satisfy the identity check. You could also offer to do a 2min Zoom with them to show them who you are, rather than send a photo of your ID. However, if you’re comfortable to, a photo of your ID is usually the accepted format.

Particularly if you’re concerned about facial recognition: This template SAR is particularly focused on obtaining information about whether you have been put onto a facial recognition watchlist. It’s important to know.

This template relates to the Grand Prix: because we’re concerned that hundreds of campaigners may have been unlawfully added to facial recognition watchlists for this event – but you can change the police force and time frame if you wish.

Choose whether to ask for social media data too: You don’t have to include social media handles – but do if you use an account in your real name and want any data held on that account too.

Please share your results with Big Brother Watch: as part of our long-standing campaign to ban live facial recognition, we’re keen to understand more about who is and isn’t put on facial recognition watchlists and why. In some cases, we may be able to offer free legal support to those affected and we are also considering possibilities for legal challenges. We also want to make sure we know about any unjust police surveillance of campaigners and activists. If you’re open to it, please contact info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk to share your SAR responses in confidence.


to: informationunit@northants.pnn.police.uk

Dear Northamptonshire Police,

I am writing to request copies of all information held about me by Northamptonshire Police as per Article 15 of the UK GDPR, dated or generated since 1st January 2023. I am particularly interested in any information held on me in relation to the deployment of Live Facial Recognition, such as watchlist entries or notes – and particularly whether you have included me on a facial recognition watchlist. Please also provide the purposes for processing [such as the context for any records held], the period the data will be held for and the details of any other parties my data has been or will be shared with.

If the data held includes information that is separately publicly available, you must still disclose all of the data.

As the Information Commissioner’s Office states, a subject access request affords me legal rights me to be provided with information about:

“what personal information an organisation holds about you;
how they are using it; 
who they are sharing it with; 
and where they got your data from.”

Please provide details of the personal data relating to me that you hold, and if so why my personal data was held/processed, who it was shared with and details of any third parties it has been shared with. I expect this to contain the titles of any documents containing my personal data at an absolute minimum.

Although the information may separately be in the public domain, if social media posts, articles, videos or tweets by or involving me have been held, used, shared or obtained by anyone within the Northants Police, I am also entitled to that information being disclosed.

My personal data includes my social media data. For your convenience my [SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM] handle is: [HANDLE HERE]

I have attached a photo of my ID as verification.

I would like all information returned to me via email please. If any further clarification is needed please do let me know, otherwise I look forward to your response within one calendar month.