NEWS18 June 2021

Information commissioner sets out facial recognition rules

Legal News Privacy Public Sector UK

UK – Elizabeth Denham, the UK information commissioner, has said she is “deeply concerned” about the potential for facial recognition technology to be used inappropriately and has established rules for the use of the technology in public places.

Facial recognition

In an opinion piece published today ( 18th June), Denham said that live facial recognition (LFR) could be a threat to people’s privacy if used recklessly.

LFR enables the identification of members of the public and the inference of personal details, which Denham said could be used in situations such as instantly profiling people to serve up personalised adverts or matching their images against known shoplifters.

“When sensitive personal data is collected on a mass scale without people’s knowledge, choice or control, the impacts could be significant,” Denham said.

“We should be able to take our children to a leisure complex, visit a shopping centre or tour a city to see the sights without having our biometric data collected and analysed with every step we take.”

A commissioner’s opinion has been published on the use of LFR in public places by private companies and public organisations, and sets out the laws on how LFR can be used as well as data protection implications stemming from the technology.

“Organisations will need to demonstrate high standards of governance and accountability from the outset, including being able to justify that the use of LFR is fair, necessary and proportionate in each specific context in which it is deployed,” Denham said.

“They need to demonstrate that less intrusive techniques won’t work. These are important standards that require robust assessment.

“Organisations will also need to understand and assess the risks of using a potentially intrusive technology and its impact on people’s privacy and their lives. For example, how issues around accuracy and bias could lead to misidentification and the damage or detriment that comes with that.”