Is there a future for automatic facial recognition? Fiona Barton QC writes for Police Professional

8 September 2020

Fiona Barton QC writes for Police Professional regarding the recent Court of Appeal judgment of R (Bridges) v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police & others which arose following the use of automated facial recognition technology. The case highlights the difficulties created when legislation fails to keep pace with technology. 

On 11th August 2020 the Court of Appeal handed down judgment in R (Bridges) v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police & others. The central issue in the case was whether the current legal regime in the United Kingdom is adequate to ensure the lawful use of AFR. The case is important for a number of reasons: it highlights the difficulties created for operational police officers where legislation fails to keep pace with developing technology; illustrates the advantages of cooperation between the police and regulators and signposts the way forward. 

The appeal concerned the lawfulness of the use of automated facial recognition technology (“AFR”), specifically AFR Locate, which automatically extracts faces captured in a live feed from a camera and compares them to faces on a watchlist. The image will be automatically deleted if no match is found. However, if a match is detected, an alert is created and the images will be reviewed and a decision made on what, if any, action should be taken. South Wales Police Force (“SWP”) spearheaded a pilot project and deployed AFR Locate on about 50 occasions between May 2017 and April 2019 at a variety of public events. The Appellant, Edward Bridges, is a civil liberties campaigner who lives in Cardiff and supported by Liberty, he brought this test case. 

To read the full article on Police Professional, please click here


Fiona Barton KC

Call 1986 | Silk 2011

Related areas

Police Law


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