City Hall has endorsed calls for Scotland Yard to say publicly why it thinks facial recognition technology is legal before continuing with any further trials of the technology.
The technology, which automatically checks those passing a camera in a public place against images on a police ‘watch-list’, was deployed at both last year’s Notting Hill Carnival and the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph.
In response to concerns about the legality of the technology and a lack of oversight of its use, Mayor Sadiq Khan asked the London Policing Ethics Panel to carry out an independent assessment.
Publishing its conclusions, the panel concludes that there is a lack of clarity about the legal basis for the technology’s deployment and calls on the Met to publish its view on the legality before carrying out any further trials.
The panel also calls for more information about trials to be published on the Met’s website and to ensure trial sites are selected to minimise perceptions of bias against certain communities.
It also calls on the force to set out, as a condition of continuing with trials, how it will go about making future decisions on where and when the technology is used and how it will engage with Londoners.
Dr Suzanne Shale, who chairs the London Policing Ethics Panel, said: “Our report examines the Metropolitan Police’s trials of live facial recognition technology.
“The technology is potentially of value for policing, but these trials have raised important questions about how citizens are involved in testing powerful new digital technologies, and in subsequent decisions whether to adopt them.
“The Met has shared information with the Ethics Panel about how it uses the technology, the trials and some possibilities for future use.
“We have made a series of key recommendations, which we think should be addressed before any further trials are carried out. We believe it is important facial recognition technology remains the subject of ethical scrutiny.”
Welcoming the report, Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “We firmly believe in the principles of policing by consent in London and to do that we have to ensure we maintain the full support and trust of Londoners in the Metropolitan Police.
“The Ethics Panel’s report sets out a clear set of recommendations, focusing on a series of measures the Met can take to improve communications with Londoners about how and why facial recognition technology is used now, and in future trials.
“We will oversee this and will work closely with senior officers at the Met to ensure these measures are carried out.”
Commander Ivan Balhatchet of the Met said: “The Met engaged extensively with the ethics committee during the development of this report and we welcome its findings.
“We have already implemented a number of the recommendations made in the report. We will have implemented the remaining ones by the end of July as we continue to trial the technology.
“We believe it will be an extremely valuable tool to help keep London and its citizens safe, alongside other tactical methods we use.
“The public would rightly expect our use of this technology to be rigorously scrutinised and used lawfully.
“There is currently no specific legal framework in the use of this technology and we are therefore keen to ensure that the appropriate legal and ethical frameworks are in place to support its use.”