NEWS6 September 2019

Met Police supplied images for King’s Cross facial recognition

GDPR News Privacy Public Sector UK

UK – The Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police have both reversed their positions on the use of facial recognition technology in London’s King’s Cross, after previously saying they had no involvement.

Security camera facial recognition_crop

Information originally provided by the Metropolitan Police was "incorrect" and the force had "in fact shared images related to facial recognition with King’s Cross Central Limited Partnership", London mayor Sadiq Khan said in an update on Wednesday ( 4th September).

The activity ceased in 2018, according to the mayor.

The issue was raised in July by Sian Berry, Green Party co-leader for England and Wales, who asked the mayor whether the Met Police had worked with any private organisations to monitor people’s facial data. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) launched an investigation into the use of the technology in the King’s Cross Central area after it was first reported by the Financial Times in August.

Both the Met and the British Transport Police (BTP) said earlier this week they were unaware of any police involvement in the use of facial recognition at the King’s Cross development.

However, the BTP said in an updated statement yesterday ( 5th September): "Between 2016 and 2018, local teams based at King’s Cross worked with our partners to share images of a small number of convicted offenders, who routinely offended or committed anti-social behaviour in the area. This was legitimate action in order to prevent crime and keep people safe."

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said in a statement: "Prior to Spring 2018, the MPS shared images, for the purposes of facial recognition to assist in the prevention of crime, with the King’s Cross Estate team under a local agreement developed between local police and the partnership. This ceased in Spring 2018."

MPS added it had not shared any images with the King’s Cross Estate "for facial recognition purposes" since March 2018.

The mayor has asked for a report from the MPS on the development and the force’s wider data-sharing practices. The ICO’s probe on the use of the technology at King’s Cross is ongoing.

The development came at the same time as a high court ruling in Cardiff that police use of automatic facial recognition technology is lawful after a member of the public launched a legal challenge.