Policing committee launches inquiry into facial recognition technology

Holyrood’s Justice Sub-Committee on Policing has launched a new inquiry into the use of facial recognition technology.

MSPs are keen to find out more about police use and future plans in relation to this fast-evolving tool, which is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Facial recognition technology can either be ‘live’ or ‘retrospective’. It is understood that Police Scotland currently uses retrospective facial recognition technology from recorded CCTV, which is matched against faces in the Police National Database.

It is not currently clear whether other policing organisations, such as the British Transport Police or the National Crime Agency, use either form of facial recognition in Scotland.

Advances in technology mean that, in addition to CCTV, images which could be used for facial recognition can come from body-worn cameras and potentially mobile phones.

Speaking as the call for views was launched, sub-committee convener John Finnie MSP said: “Facial recognition could be a useful tool for police in fighting crime and keeping communities safe.

“However, it should not be forgotten that this technology is invasive to citizens’ privacy. The human rights and legal implications of using facial recognition need to be understood.

“The sub-committee wants to be reassured that police services are striking the right balance when using this technology. We have a number of concerns we look forward to exploring further in the months ahead.”

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