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Police’s facial recognition technology ‘98% inaccurate’
May 14, 2018
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LONDON: Facial recognition software used by the UK’s biggest police force has returned false positives in more than 98 per cent of alerts generated, The Independent can reveal, with the country’s biometrics regulator calling it “not yet fit for use”.

The Metropolitan Police’s system has produced 104 alerts of which only two were later confirmed to be positive matches, a freedom of information request showed. In its response the force said it did not consider the inaccurate matches “false positives” because alerts were checked a second time after they occurred.

Facial recognition technology scans people in a video feed and compares their images to pictures stored in a reference library or watch list. It has been used at large events like the Notting Hill Carnival and a Six Nations Rugby match.

The system used by another force, South Wales Police, has returned more than 2,400 false positives in 15 deployments since June 2017. The vast majority of those came during that month’s Uefa Champion’s League final in Cardiff, and overall only 234 alerts – fewer than 10 per cent – were correct matches.

he UK’s biometrics commissioner, Professor Paul Wiles, told The Independent that legislation to govern the technology was “urgently needed.”

He said: “I have told both police forces that I consider such trials are only acceptable to fill gaps in knowledge and if the results of the trials are published and externally peer-reviewed. We ought to wait for the final report, but I am not surprised to hear that accuracy rates so far have been low as clearly the technology is not yet fit for use.”

“In terms of governance, technical development and deployment is running ahead of legislation and these new biometrics urgently need a legislative framework, as already exists for DNA and fingerprints.”

“The Home Office has promised to publish a biometric strategy in June and I trust that this will propose a legislative framework. It is important in terms of public trust that the public are clear when their biometrics might be taken and what they might be used for, and that parliament has decided those rules.”

But a Home Office spokesman admitted this week that the department could not say when the long-delayed biometrics strategy would be published.

The Independent
 

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