In the media today there is coverage surrounding the publication of Big Brother Watch’s report into facial recognition technology and research by the Internet Watch Foundation into the live streaming of child abuse.
Police facial recognition trials
The civil liberties organisation Big Brother Watch today published a report stating that facial recognition technology is “not working” and that during police trials, a high number of innocent people have been wrongly matched to a photo of a criminal. In addition, the independent Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham published a blog post yesterday warning that the technology could be unlawful.
The Today programme reported that the Metropolitan Police and South Wales Police have been testing facial recognition cameras at public events in an effort to catch wanted criminals. However, the organisation Big Brother Watch says that its’ investigation showed the technology was dangerous and inaccurate as it had wrongly flagged up “a staggering number of innocent people”. According to Freedom of Information figures obtained by the group, 98% of the Metropolitan Police’s “matches” were wrong, and for South Wales Police the figure was 91%.
The programme interviewed Silkie Carlo from Big Brother Watch who said that South Wales Police had been given £2.6m by the Home Office to use this technology, but that it was used with “no legal basis” and that the system was “undermining civil rights” and “not keeping people safe”.
Ms Carlo was also interviewed on BBC Breakfast and said that the technology allowed the police to “identify, track and locate members of the public wherever they are”.
The Telegraph, Express and Star lead on the FoI figures, stating that the technology does not work.
The Times and Mail lead on the Commissioner’s comments that the system risks damaging public trust. According to the Mail, the Commissioner has written to the Home Office and the National Police Chiefs’ Council saying that if her concerns are not addressed, she will consider if legal action is needed to ensure the right protections for the public are in place.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
The Home Office has supported 95 projects through the Police Transformation Fund since 2016 and continues to support police to respond to changing criminal activity and new demands. All projects are carefully evaluated during the application process and regularly report their progress.
When trialling facial recognition technologies, forces must show regard to relevant policies, including the Surveillance Camera Code of Practices and the Information Commissioner’s guide.
Child abuse being live streamed
The Times, Telegraph, Guardian and Mail are reporting on research by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), which says that young children are being coerced and blackmailed into live streaming images of themselves to online predators. According to the reports, 98% of victims of child sex abuse streamed live on the internet were under the age of 13, a third under 10 years old. The Mail carries a Home Office statement saying that the IWF research demonstrates why the Government has “nearly doubled” the NCA’s capabilities to investigate these heinous crimes.
A Home Office spokesperson said:
Online child sexual exploitation is a heinous crime which has a truly devastating impact on its victims. The Internet Watch Foundation plays an important role in ridding the internet of these indecent images of children.
"The Government has significantly increased resources to the National Crime Agency to investigate online child sexual exploitation, including indecent images, leading to a near doubling in law enforcement capabilities with a further £20m available to maintain this until 2020.
"We have invested in Project Arachnid, ground breaking technology that identifies and indecent images of children online and sends takedown notices at an unprecedented level.
"We are also working with industry and other nations as part of the WePROTECT Global Alliance, which aims to galvanise global action, and identify technical solutions for emerging threats as they evolve.