South Wales Police use of facial recognition ruled lawful

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Judges have ruled against a shopper who brought a legal challenge against police use of automated facial recognition (AFR) technology.

The court refused the judicial review on all grounds, finding South Wales Police had followed the rules and their use of AFR was justified.

The High Court said this was the first time any court in the world had considered the use of the technology.

Civil rights group Liberty said its client would appeal against the ruling.

It had argued it was akin to the unregulated taking of DNA or fingerprints without consent, and it is campaigning for an outright ban of the practice.

The judicial review was held in May after Ed Bridges, from Cardiff, claimed his human rights were breached when he was photographed while Christmas shopping.

His legal challenge argued the use of the tool breached his human right to privacy as well as data protection and equality laws.
The court’s key findings included:

– South Wales Police’s use of AFR met the requirements of the Human Rights Act and its actions were subject to sufficient legal controls
– On data protection, the force was processing personal data, but in a lawful manner that met the conditions set out in the legislation
– The force had complied with equality laws
– The current legal regime is adequate to ensure the appropriate and non-arbitrary use of AFR.

Lawyer Megan Goulding said: “This disappointing judgment does not reflect the very serious threat that facial recognition poses to our rights and freedoms.

“Facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all.”