Ministerial action needed over ‘explosion’ of spy technology

The surveillance camera commissioner has said it is unacceptable that no law has yet been introduced to control how intrusive technologies such as facial recognition are used.

Police forces and private companies are increasingly using automated CCTV cameras to collect people’s facial and biometric data. At present, five UK police forces have used facial recognition technology, including the Metropolitan Police and south Wales police.

Tony Porter, the surveillance watchdog, criticised ministers for their failure to clamp down on an ‘explosion’ of spy technology that is monitoring millions of citizens.

Currently, ‘overt’ spy systems do not need approval from a senior police officer or judge, as opposed to covert surveillance which is monitored but such safeguards.

It has been deployed in shopping centres and at festivals, sports events, concerts and peaceful demonstrations, but privacy campaigners have criticised the technology as being inaccurate and prone to bias. Porter has revealed that he had intervened to stop several police forces from using the technology ‘disproportionately’.

Porter’s views coincided with lawyers for  civil rights organisation Liberty arguing that the powers operated by MI5 and the monitoring agency GCHQ to obtain, store and search communications data breach human rights.


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