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Stop Facial Recognition

Police and private companies in the UK have been quietly rolling out facial recognition surveillance cameras, taking ‘faceprints’ of millions of people — often without you knowing about it. That’s biometric data as sensitive as a fingerprint. The Met Police is planning to roll it out across the capital. This is an enormous expansion of the surveillance state — and it sets a dangerous precedent worldwide. We must stop this dangerously authoritarian surveillance now.

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UPDATE: The Metropolitan Police recently announced it will use live facial recognition operationally, scanning millions of people.

The Met is the largest police force outside of China to roll out this authoritarian mass surveillance tool. This move gives a green light to police forces and private companies across the UK - and around the world — to turn public spaces into biometric surveillance zones. The Met has made this dangerous decision despite the lack of a clear legal basis;

a damning independent review; rights groups across the country raising the alarm; MPs calling for an urgent stop; and our investigation exposing a failure rate of over 90%.

Our message to the Met? See you in court.

Thanks to your support, we’re urgently planning the next steps in our ongoing legal challenge to the Met and the Home Secretary. Watch this space.

Please, sign and share our petition.

TAKE ACTION

1

SIGN & SHARE THE PETITION

Tell the Met Commissioner and Minister for Policing to stop using facial recognition surveillance now. If enough of us sign, they’ll be under pressure to reconsider the decision. Please share the petition with as many people as you can.

Sign now

2

SPREAD THE WORD

Increase your impact – ask your friends to support the campaign. Share, tweet, post your support: #StopFacialRecognition

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BECOME A SUPPORTER

This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help us watch the watchers. Join us and receive a Big Brother Watch welcome gift!

Support us now

Got a tip? If you have any information about facial recognition surveillance in the UK that might help our investigation, please let us know. Email us at info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk. If you wish to encrypt, you can find our PGP key here.

Our campaign

We’ve been investigating and campaigning against the expansion of live facial recognition surveillance in the UK since the very first police trials. We’re now proudly leading a national campaign against this dangerously authoritarian technology, backed by over 25 rights groups, academics, lawyers and MPs from across major parties.

OUR MISSION IS SIMPLE:

We’re fighting to urgently stop facial recognition surveillance being used in our public spaces, whether by police or private companies. And we’re fighting to win.

HERE'S HOW WE'RE DOING IT:

LEGAL CHALLENGE

We joined forces with civil liberties campaigner and Green Party peer Baroness Jenny Jones in June 2018 to launch a crowdfunded legal challenge against the Metropolitan Police and Home Secretary for their lawless, rights-infringing use of face surveillance. We received incredible public support and raised £10,000 to protect us against cost risks so we could bring the challenge, with pro bono support of some of the UK’s best human rights lawyers. The Metropolitan Police has now paused its use of the surveillance, so our legal challenge is paused too – but we’re ready and waiting for them if they bring facial recognition cameras back to the capital.

There is a separate legal challenge being brought against South Wales Police for their use of facial recognition by Cardiff resident Dr Ed Bridges, backed by Liberty. The first stage of the challenge was unsuccessful but Dr Bridges has permission to appeal. We’re monitoring this awesome challenge closely — it has our full support.

REPORT

We published groundbreaking report into the emergence of facial recognition, Face Off, in parliament in May 2018. We found that up to 98% of the police’s facial recognition matches at that time were misidentifying innocent members of the public and thousands of innocent people’s photos were put on police databases without their knowledge.

Read report

Download PDF

INVESTIGATION

Our investigation into facial recognition in the UK is ongoing and we put information into the public domain as soon as we can. We work with media partners, including the BBC, to widely publish our findings. We have also passed on all of our findings to the data regulator, the ICO, and pressed them to investigate. Check out our interactive map for details of what we’ve found so far.

PROTESTS

When we are tipped off about future facial recognition deployments we attend to demonstrate, hand out leaflets, and observe any police/security action. It’s important we observe the police, so we can record and intervene in incidents like this. We recently teamed up with football fans to protest in Cardiff. Want to join in? Sign up to our email updates

In London in January 2019, a man was stopped by police after objecting to being scanned by live facial recognition cameras and covering his face. He was surrounded by officers, and when he protested, he was given a £90 fine for an alleged public order offence.

PARLIAMENT

We’re taking the campaign to the heart of power. We published our groundbreaking Face Off report in parliament, hosting high profile parliamentary speakers. We’ve since supported MPs tabling questions in parliament, we’ve circulated briefings for debates, and we’ve exposed the dangers of facial recognition in evidence for parliamentary committees and government working groups. (Find it all here.) We are always pushing regulators to act, and we also spread the word at conferences, universities, European Parliament and the EU rights agency. We’re now working with Lord Clement-Jones on a Facial Recognition Moratorium Bill, to pursue a legislative stop to facial recognition.

BUILDING A MOVEMENT

We’re leading a national campaign against facial recognition, bringing together the country’s rights and race equality groups and politicians from across the political spectrum to stand together against this surveillance expansion. In September 2019, we issued a call for an urgent stop to facial recognition surveillance by police and private companies supported by 25 organisations. We publicised this on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme and achieved widespread news coverage.

What is facial recognition surveillance?

Facial recognition surveillance cameras scan all the faces they can see in a crowd to check people’s identity against a database in real-time.

FACEPRINTS

This works by rapidly creating a biometric “faceprint” of your face – sensitive data that uniquely identifies you – much like a fingerprint, and comparing this for similar matches on a database.

Reference databases have been built from various sources including:

  • CCTV images of “suspects” or “problem” individuals
  • Subsets of the police’s enormous database of 19 million custody images, which includes vast numbers of photos of innocent people
  • police intelligence databases, including innocent people with suspected mental health problems and political campaigners

But the possibilities are endless...

YOUR ONLINE LIFE UNLOCKED

Some facial recognition companies even claim to check faces against internet data in real-time, scanning social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to identify any profiles associated with you.

NO CONSENT

Facial recognition cameras often look like normal CCTV cameras. They’re anything but. Without your consent and often without your knowledge, they subject everyone within view to a biometric identity check.

MASS SURVEILLANCE

Live facial recognition in public spaces is a mass surveillance method and a huge expansion of the surveillance state. It inverts the vital democratic principle of suspicion preceding surveillance, treating populations like suspects.

Police normally require a legal basis to check your identity or ask for your biometric data. But facial recognition surveillance introduces arbitrary identity checks to our society, turning us into walking ID cards subject to a high-tech police line ups.

This poses a major threat to our civil liberties and democratic rights – we must resist it.

Map: UK Facial recognition in detail

London

The Metropolitan Police ran trials across the city for 4 years, from 2016-2019. It is now subject to our legal challenge. The force, along with British Transport Police, also gave photos to the King’s Cross Estate for a secret use of the surveillance that went on for 2+ years, 2015/6-2018.

The Hippodrome Casino uses live facial recognition. The popular Gordon’s Wine Bar also uses the surveillance – the owner also owns FaceWatch.

Metropolitan Police

We have investigated the Metropolitan Police’s use of live facial recognition since ‘trials’ began in 2016. We started a legal challenge against the force in June 2018. The force announced plans to roll out facial recognition across the capital in January 2020, vowing to begin using it operationally within weeks.

You can read the damning Independent Review of the Met’s facial recognition use and related media coverage.

List of events and dates where Metropolitan Police has used live facial recognition
Event Date True Positives False Positives Wrong Interv. Notes Media
Oxford Circus 27/02/2020 1 7 5 7,292 people on watchlist. 5 people wrongly stopped. Link
Oxford Circus 20/02/2020 0 0 0 7,268 people on watchlist. Two men racially profiled, stopped and searched. Link
Romford Town Centre 14/02/2019 3 13 5 We observed and demonstrated against this deployment. A 14y old black schoolboy in uniform was stopped and fingerprinted by police after being misidentified. Link
Stratford Westfield 11/02/2019 0 0 0 5,816 people on watchlist. 30+ officers on duty, no matches. Link
Romford Town Centre 31/01/2019 3 7 2 We observed and demonstrated against this deployment. A man was fined by police after covering his face as he walked past the cameras leading to huge media coverage. This was filmed by BBC and became a viral clip online with 2.5m+ views. Link 1
Link 2
Central London (Piccadilly and Leicester Square) 17/12/2018 - 18/12/2018 2 12 2 Large presence of plain clothes police officers, some of whom appeared to monitor our activity/leafleting and people’s reactions to our leaflets. See FOI Link 1
Link 2
Stratford Westfield 26/07/2018 0 1 1 Big Brother Watch and Green Party co-leader Sian Berry observed this deployment. See FOI: Link PDF. Link
Stratford Westfield 28/06/2018 0 5 1 The misidentification was of a young black man. Liberty observed this deployment. See also FOI. Link
Port of Hull docks (with Humberside Police) 13/06/2018 - 14/06/2018 0 0 0 See FOI. ‘Blue list’ testing uses police officers as subjects. n/a
Remembrance Day 2017 11/11/2017 1 6 1 The watchlist for this deployment was of 50 people on a police intelligence list (‘fixated individuals’) who are suspected of having mental health problems. None was wanted for arrest or banned from the event. Police told our director that they ejected the individual who was correctly identified from the event. Also see FOI and FOI. Link
Notting Hill Carnival 2017 26/08/2017 - 27/08/2017 1 95 ? We observed this deployment and witnessed the tech produce 2 false positive matches of innocent women with men on the watchlist in under 10 mins of observing inside the van. The one correct identification was in relation to outdated data i.e. an individual who was no longer wanted. The facial recognition cameras were mounted on a van that was concealed behind iron sheeting, making it a semi-covert deployment in practice.Also see FOI and FOI. Link
Notting Hill Carnival 2016 28/08/2016 - 29/08/2016 0 1 ? We are very sceptical that these statistics, which we obtained using FOIA, are correct. As such an early use of the technology, the Met is bound to have hit many false positives. Also see FOI and FOI 2. n/a

Privately owned spaces

King’s Cross

One of the country’s busiest train stations and now a buzzing office and retail area, the King’s Cross Estate was found to have secretly used live facial recognition surveillance by the Financial Times. The expose in August 2019 followed a tip and was later confirmed by the property development company Argent. Both the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police denied any involvement whatsoever – but later admitted supplying the company with photos for the watchlist. The Met admitted supplying 7 photos in a September 2019 report; BTP admitted supplying photos in response to our FOI in October 2019. According to the Met, the deployment went on for 2 years, from May 2016 to March 2018. However, property developers Argent had initially said the technology, supplied by NEC (the same provider used by police) was in place from 2015.

The ICO is investigating.

Hippodrome Casino

This central London casino on the corner of Leicester Square uses live facial recognition cameras provided by NEC, as detailed on its privacy policy.

Gordon’s Wine Bar

This popular wine bar on Embankment uses live facial recognition surveillance supplied by FaceWatch. The bar’s owner also owns FaceWatch.

Cardiff

South Wales Police has used, and continues to use, facial recognition surveillance more than any other police force in the UK. Its use is subject to a legal challenge by Cardiff resident, Dr Ed Bridges.

South Wales Police, supported by millions of pounds in Home Office funding (see our report), has used the technology since May 2017 when it monitored fans attending the UEFA Champions League, misidentifying and photographing over 2,500 people. The force typically targets sports fans, concert-goers and shoppers with the surveillance.

List of events and dates where South Wales Police has used live facial recognition
Event Date True positives False positives Wrong interv. Notes Media
Slipknot (Motorpoint Arena) 22/01/2020 n/a n/a n/a Ironically, Slipknot all wear masks. ...
Cardiff City v Swansea City (Cardiff) 12/01/2020 n/a n/a n/a Fans protested again, with some wearing masks. Welsh Police & Crime Commissioners spoke out against it, calling it “invasive, disproportionate” and “a step too far”. ...
Swansea City v Cardiff City (Swansea) 27/10/2019 n/a n/a n/a The watchlist for this event relating to Football Banning Orders. Fans protested ahead of the match and during. Police didn't correctly match anyone. ...
Elvis Festival (Porthcawl) 28/09/2019 0 0 0 No matches made. ...
Elvis Festival (Porthcawl) 27/09/2019 0 0 0 No matches made. ...
Neath Day of Action 27/09/2019 1 0 0 ... ...
Op SCEPTRE 11/09/2019 1 0 0 ... ...
Op SCEPTRE 05/09/2019 1 0 0 ... ...
Wales v Ireland (Six Nations Rugby) 31/08/2019 3 13 0 ... ...
County Lines 23/08/2019 1 0 0 ... ...
Northern Retail 17/08/2019 - 19/08/2019 0 1 0 ... ...
Wales v England (Six Nations Rugby) 17/08/2019 7 7 0 ... ...
Wales Airshow 07/07/2019 2 5 0 ... ...
Wales Airshow 06/07/2019 3 4 0 ... ...
Take That 08/06/2019 2 5 0 ... ...
'Operation Sceptre' 07/06/2019 0 0 0 ... ...
Spice Girls Concert 27/05/2019 6 9 1 ... ...
'Operation Cristo' 16/05/2019 0 0 0 ... ...
'Day of Action' (location unknown) 09/05/2019 0 0 0 ... ...
Catfish and the Bottlemen concert (Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff) 05/05/2019 0 0 0 ... ...
'Day of Action' (location unknown) 09/04/2019 0 0 0 ... ...
'Day of Action' (location unknown) 05/04/2019 3 1 1 ... ...
Wales v Ireland (Six Nations Rugby) 16/03/2019 0 7 1 ... ...
Wales v England (Six Nations Rugby) 23/02/2019 4 8 1 ... ...
'Operation Cristo' (Location unknown) 10/01/2019 2 0 0 ... ...
'Operation Fulcrum' (Location unknown) 18/12/2018 0 1 3 ... ...
'Operation Encore' 04/12/2018 0 0 0 ... ...
'Operation Avalanche' (Location unknown) 30/11/2018 2 0 0 ... ...
'Operation Avalanche' (Location unknown) 28/11/2018 0 0 0 ... ...
Wales v South Africa Rugby (Cardiff) 24/11/2018 4 1 0 ... ...
Wales v Tonga Rugby (Cardiff) 17/11/2018 2 0 1 ... ...
Wales v Australia Rugby (Cardiff) 10/11/2018 6 1 0 ... ...
Wales v Scotland Rugby (Cardiff) 03/11/2018 9 1 1 ... ...
Elvis Festival (Porthcawl) 28/09/2018 – 30/09/2018 2 0 0 ... ...
Ed Sheeran concerts (Millenium Stadium, Cardiff) 21/06/2018 - 24/06/2018 8 10 2 ... ...
The Rolling Stones (Millenium Stadium, Cardiff) 15/06/2018 1 1 6 ... ...
Stereophonics (Cardiff City Stadium) 09/06/2018 0 5 1 ... ...
BBC Biggest Weekend (Singleton Park, Swansea) 26/05/2018 - 27/05/2018 2 10 0 ... ...
Arms Fair demonstration (Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff) 27/03/2018 1 0 0 The watchlist at this protest included campaigners for intelligence purposes – i.e. people not wanted by police at all. See our FOI and FOI 2. ...
Wales v France Rugby (Cardiff City Centre) 17/03/2018 6 7 4 ... ...
Wales v Italy Rugby (Cardiff) 11/03/2018 0 19 7 ... ...
Stereophonics (Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff) 07/03/2018 0 5 1 ... ...
Wales v Scotland Rugby (Cardiff) 03/02/2018 6 7 1 ... ...
Royal Visit - Prince Harry (Cardiff) 18/01/2018 0 0 0 ... ...
Operation Malecite 'Festive Deployment' (Swansea) 22/12/2017 2 0 0 The watchlist for this event comprised 9 individuals, none of whom were wanted for arrest. Link (PDF) ...
Operation Fulcrum 'Day of Action' (Cardiff) 21/12/2017 8 5 1 A Cardiff resident who was scanned at this deployment challenged it in court, and is going to the Court of Appeal. ...
Liam Gallagher Concert (Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff) 13/12/2017 6 0 0 ... ...
Kasabian Concert (Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff) 04/12/2017 4 3 0 Despite publicly stating they would only target serious crime, police scanned every concert-goer in an attempt to catch phone thieves. These cameras are now operating at all gigs at the Motorpoint Arena. ...
Wales v South Africa Rugby (Cardiff) 02/12/2017 5 18 5 ... ...
Wales v New Zealand Rugby (Cardiff) 25/11/2017 3 9 2 ... ...
Wales v Georgia Rugby (Cardiff) 18/11/2017 1 2 0 ... ...
Wales v Australia Rugby (Cardiff) 11/11/2017 6 42 2 ... ...
Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev Boxing (Cardiff) 28/10/2017 5 46 2 ... ...
Operation Fulcrum 'Day of Action' (Cardiff) 19/10/2017 5 11 2 ... ...
Elvis Festival (Porthcawl) 23/09/2017 - 24/09/2017 10 7 1 Police deployed a ‘community engagement’ vehicle, with festival-goers invited to be scanned and matched against a watchlist of images of Elvis. Link (PDF) ...
UEFA Champions League Final Week (Cardiff Airport, Train station and City Centre) 29/05/2017 - 03/06/2017 173 2,554 5 Thousands of people were wrongly matched over this four day deployment. ...

Swansea

South Wales Police used live facial recognition at a Swansea City v Cardiff City football match at Liberty Stadium in October 2019, with a watchlist relating to Football Banning Orders. This resulted in fan protests ahead of the match and during. The force did not correctly match anyone.

Hull

Humberside Police collaborated with Metropolitan Police to deploy live facial recognition at Hull docks in June 2018. No one was identified (except police officers aka ‘blue list’ for experimental purposes). (Link PDF)

Leicestershire

Leicestershire Police was the first force in the UK to use live facial recognition software. This was at Download Festival in June 2015, where 90,000 festival goers were checked against an Europol database.

Sheffield

Our investigation found South Yorkshire Police “supported” a facial recognition trial at Meadowhall, one of the biggest shopping centres in the North of England, in 2018. One trial lasted 2 days, the other 1 month. On our calculation, 2 million visitors could have been scanned. Read more on BBC, other press and see our FOIs.

Manchester

A secret six-month police trial at the Trafford Centre March-September 2018 was criticised by the Surveillance Camera Commissioner for being disproportionate. We estimate 15 million visitors could have been scanned. See press coverage, our op-ed, and our FOI.

Birmingham

Our investigation found evidence of facial recognition used at the Millennium Point conference centre in collaboration with police. Police denied this.

Our investigation found that the Millennium Point conference centre had used facial recognition, and its privacy policy said facial recognition was used “at the request of law enforcement”. This was surprising, since West Midlands police denied any involvement with live facial recognition in response to our FOI in November 2018.

In recent years, the area around the conference centre has seen demonstrations from trade unionists, anti-racism campaigners and football fans. We spoke to staff at the centre who gave no further information and said everything we needed to know was in the privacy policy. We spoke to the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office who told us they looked into the matter and were not aware of facial recognition being requested or used at Millennium Point at all. We sent FOIs to the force, who told us the information we requested was “not available in a readily retrievable format”.

Millennium Point issued a new privacy policy in September 2019, three weeks after we published our investigation, with references to facial recognition removed. The amendment log on the privacy policy details a change made on 5th September 2019: “Removed the paragraph regarding the use of facial recognition software at the request of law enforcement authorities”.

Liverpool

Our investigation found facial recognition surveillance had been used at Liverpool’s World Museum following police advice – but now both police and the museum deny it.

Our investigation found facial recognition surveillance had been used at Liverpool’s World Museum and this was detailed in their privacy policy. In August 2019, the museum told us in writing that the surveillance had been in place, ironically, during the Terracotta Warriors and the First Emperor exhibition in 2018 and that this was “following advice from Merseyside Police and local counter terrorism advisors”. This was surprising, since Merseyside police denied any involvement with live facial recognition in response to our FOI in November 2018.

The museum also told me that “National Museums Liverpool is currently testing feasibility of using similar technology in the future”. However, when we asked Merseyside Police they told us they “made no recommendations to National Museums/World Museum in relation to the use of Facial Recognition Technology and no photographs or database was provided”.

We asked the Museum to comment on the police’s denial, but they did not respond. We sent the Museum a FOI, to which they showed a total, unexplained reversal of the previous position and denied using facial recognition at all or having worked with the police.

Waltham Forest

The London council ran a secret trial of facial recognition surveillance for 3 days in 2019, without the knowledge of residents. It used 4 cameras in public spaces, including a train station and the borough’s main shopping street.

Read more

Bradford

We discovered that The Broadway shopping centre trialled facial recognition in August 2018, working with Customer Clever, Omega Security and Axis Communications. Customer Clever tweeted that the trial would identify “problem” individuals and “provide demographic information to the shopping centre”.

Brighton

We found evidence that facial recognition has been used at the Amex football stadium. This appears to be confirmed for the Albion v Crystal Palace match in January 2018.

TAKE ACTION

1

SIGN & SHARE THE PETITION

Tell the Met Commissioner and Minister for Policing to stop using facial recognition surveillance now. If enough of us sign, they’ll be under pressure to reconsider the decision. Please share the petition with as many people as you can.

Sign now

2

SPREAD THE WORD

Increase your impact – ask your friends to support the campaign. Share, tweet, post your support: #StopFacialRecognition

Tweet now

3

BECOME A SUPPORTER

This is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help us watch the watchers. Join us and receive a Big Brother Watch welcome gift!

Support us now

Got a tip? If you have any information about facial recognition surveillance in the UK that might help our investigation, please let us know. Email us at info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk. If you wish to encrypt, you can find our PGP key here.