Cressida Dick challenged by campaigners in botched facial recognition photo op

Big Brother Watch Team / March 11, 2022

The outgoing Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick was challenged by civil liberties campaigners yesterday, after she made a surprise trip to a police deployment of live facial recognition technology in central London.

The Commissioner’s photo opportunity was scuppered by the civil liberties campaigners who held placards reading “Stop Facial Recognition” and “This way to have your face biometrically scanned by police” behind her.

The Metropolitan Police’s live facial recognition deployment was intended to run from midday yesterday in Leicester Square. However, technical issues delayed the start time and technicians were seen working to fix the cameras until 3.30pm, when the deployment eventually started.

In an embarrassing exchange filmed by onlookers,[1] the Commissioner defended the broken cameras as “a great bit of technology”, telling Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo that “nobody’s privacy was intruded on” since the cameras were not working.

When challenged by Carlo on the rate of approximately 95% misidentifications by the facial recognition technology, the Commissioner said “I’m not going to get into the debate about 95%” as “that’s not the position we have”, to which Carlo replied “It’s not something to have a position on, it’s fact.”

The controversial technology has been criticised for high failure rates, misidentifications, and the Met Police’s internal testing showed the technology had particular issues identifying women and performed more poorly for people of colour.[2]

Despite the Commissioner being forced to resign as a result of failing to address pervasive racism and sexism within the Metropolitan Police, she cited the introduction of live facial recognition as one of her successes in her resignation statement in February.[3] Carlo criticised the statement as “tone deaf”.

When asked by one campaigner what she would say to the innocent young black boy who had been wrongly flagged by facial recognition cameras as a wanted criminal last month, Dame Cressida did not respond and immediately left.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said:

“Throughout her leadership of the Met, the Commissioner has doubled down on her failures and she’s clearly continuing this pattern to the bitter end. In my exchange with her, she failed to justify the Met’s use of Orwellian and discriminatory facial recognition technology and attempted a frankly incoherent defence of the force’s broken cameras.

“Dame Cressida’s authorisation of live facial recognition in the capital represents an enormous expansion of the surveillance state that puts us out of step with most of the rest of Europe and the US. It is a serious threat to civil liberties and routinely results in misidentifications, legal issues and wasted police resources. It flies in the face of the independent review which found the Met’s use of facial recognition was likely unlawful, risked harming public rights and was highly inaccurate.

“It would only be right for live facial recognition to end in the capital along with Dame Cressida’s policing career.”


[1] The footage is available here, with a transcript in the thread:

[2] see form p.25



• Spokespeople are available for interviews. Contact Big Brother Watch’s 24h media line on 07730439257 or email
• Big Brother Watch’s campaign page, with accuracy figures from all previous facial recognition deployments, is available at