i – ICO urged to investigate Met Police’s “likely unlawful” use of private facial recognition tool

Big Brother Watch Team / May 20, 2024

Privacy and civil liberties NGO Big Brother Watch brought together 16 campaign groups in a joint letter urging the UK’s data watchdog to investigate Met Police’s “likely unlawful” use of a private facial recognition software.

PimEyes, which has been dubbed “stalkerware”, scrapes images of the public, including children, from the internet without consent.

The coalition also wrote to Met Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley.

“PimEyes has been repeatedly linked to the stalking and harassment of women and has already been the subject of a legal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Parliamentarians have also expressed their concern over its use in the UK.

“The revelation that MPS staff members have secretly been using deeply invasive facial recognition searches will further damage trust in the MPS during a period where rebuilding trust has been said to be a priority for policing,” the letter stated.

This action follows a previous ICO complaint filed by Big Brother Watch in September 2022 about the risk PimEyes poses to data rights and privacy.

Madeleine Stone, Senior Advocacy Officer at Big Brother Watch said:

“The Metropolitan Police have serious questions to answer about their officers accessing this dangerous stalkerware. They must come clean about who was using this facial recognition search engine and for what purpose, and the Information Commissioner must investigate to ensure this cannot happen again.”

i – Watchdog under pressure to probe Met Police over use of facial recognition tech