back to article Biometrics watchdog breaks cover, slams UK cops over facial recog

The UK Biometrics Commissioner has condemned the Home Office and police forces over their failure to address critical issues surrounding facial recognition. As well as noting the growing database of mugshots that Brit coppers possesses, many of which are illegally held, Professor Paul Wiles has criticized the government for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Business As Usual

    Prof Miles might as well save his breath, the police will do what they want, because there is no oversight.

    As always, ACPO continue to do their own unaccountable thing, like they have done with the ever-expanding ANPR system. I assume most commentards have seen how the ANPR units have been spreading like a fungus of late, with low profile units mounted on streetlights. Expect facial recognition software upgrades on those as soon as the makers can price it up.

    It's to protect the children, you understand?

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: Business As Usual

      Hey, don't blame ACPO. They're just a talking shop. Their only role in this story is to run interference for the wankers at the Home Office.

      (Not that they're "blameless", but they're certainly not the ones in charge.)

  2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    ACPO, the Home Office's ever helpful "arms length" not-a-company

    Or as they were described "with the same legal standing as a stamp collecting club."

    So no policy, but they're already tendering for nationwide roll out.


    We wants it.

    We needs it.

    We must have nationwide facial recognition


    1. Commswonk

      Re: ACPO, the Home Office's ever helpful "arms length" not-a-company

      FWIW ACPO no longer exists, so there is no point in blaming it for anything post 2015 - April I think.

      It was replaced by the National Police Chiefs' Council, which may or may not be every bit as bad.

      Blaming an extinct organisation for something that is happening now is a bit silly.

      1. not.known@this.address

        Re: ACPO, the Home Office's ever helpful "arms length" not-a-company

        Renaming something does not change its function - whether it is an Association or a Council, it is still the same people doing the same things.

        A rose by any other name, and all that.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    in a few years

    I would love for any job i have EVER done to accept a report that was promised in one YEAR and then not delivered for 5 more years and even then vaguely suggested it might be coming sometime. There are quite a few government reports that fit that one (i think one of the Grenfell fire reports was another one).

    No politician is ever held to any time frame, any promise any statement. IT where things work or it shows is a mugs game! (yep I am a mug).

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: in a few years

      I totally agree with you and am quite incensed by the situation. Whe I am given a report to write it is invariably for next Monday regardless of whether or not I have time to do it. And if I don't hand it in in time, there's hell to pay.

      To calm both of us down, may I suggest a gander at this ?

  4. Tubz

    The high courts says retention is illegal yet the coppers are still doing it, who is above the law ?

  5. Ian Mason

    Confidence in the police? I think it's already gone.

    > Wiles also notes that the facial images database has increased in size to 20 million...

    Given that the UK population, including babes in arms, is about 65 million, that represents a bit over 30% of the population. Somehow I find it hard to believe that 30% of the UK population is so criminal and dangerous that the plod need the ability to automatically recognise their faces when they pop up in public.

    > He also noted that there was a "real danger" that the number of facial images held by police keep increasing and "undermine confidence in policing" if proper policies aren't put in place.

    Given the above statistics, any reasonable person who heard them would come to the conclusion that that point has come and gone.

    1. veti Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Confidence in the police? I think it's already gone.

      Don't worry, what they haven't figured out yet is that those "20 miillion" mugshots are of only about 3 million different people. That's how good their recognition system is.

  6. Chris G Silver badge

    Normal Lamb?

    So not yet grown up enough to be at velocity in a vacuum?

    Back on the subject, not having a strategy IS their strategy, that way it is impossible to make them answerable to misuse.

    With the Home Office running interference for the cops, we could be looking at a structural part of an eventual renewal of 'Let's have ID cards because interterrorpaedos'.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      No strategy is a strategy

      Back on the subject, not having a strategy IS their strategy, that way it is impossible to make them answerable to misuse.

      You are right. Not having a public strategy has served the Police very well in other areas. I am sure there is a strategy, just not a public one and either not even written down and existing by tacit agreement in the minds of some senior officers, or written down in a protectively marked document.

      Not having a public strategy worked very well for automatic number plate recognition, where the Police quietly assembled a massive national system under cover of the occasional meaningless statement about "denying criminals the use of our roads".

      If our political system wasn't so dysfunctional, Parliament would already be discussing these issues in an intelligent way, but that isn't going to happen anytime soon ever.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Large Scale Use

    Whilst it can be agreed the impact of using FRT at large gatherings is non-intrusive, maintaining a database of attendees is starting to get in to the same territory as the Fed. Government demanding information on anti-trump websites and visitors. Scarily, this could also be used against people to silence any political critics.

    I was at a music festival a few years ago (Download festival, UK) and they actually went out of their way to advise people FRT was in use, and images would be stored for trial purposes (they didn't have a scope or documentation showing the extents of the permission gained, so one can only assume the images are still being held/used). Despite being a law abiding citizen, this disturbed me. I'm not convinced police can get a warrant to monitor every person in a city, so how can a warrant be provided giving the police blanket rights to record "just in case" something happens?

    If this was for public safety, the FRT would be on the gates, prior to allowing entrance, would search for previous offenders - with non-risk images being removed. This is nothing but an escalation in the monitoring state. Welcome to 1982, only a couple more years to go...

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A new policing option

    Instead of actually charging and punishing anyone for committing a crime the police could just issue reports "condemning the actions" of criminals - a great saving on man power, wear and tear on police cars etc

  9. Chris G Silver badge


    I think we are well past Orwell's Dystopian vision.

    With DNA databases, FRT , ANPR in place, the MSM announcing only the news that suits them and biasing that, Widdlypaedia being abused to rewrite history and facts and now topped off by large internet players blocking accounts that are not to their liking or in Google's biasing searching for things not appropriate for the politics of the day in their opinion.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    there needs to be a public debate

    can't be serious? I thought the masters master and plebs obey, no?

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