Parliamentarians write open letter to ICO over facial recognition concerns

22/12/2023 | Big Brother Watch

A cross-party group of parliamentarians have written an open letter to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) expressing their concern over the regulator's lack of action concerning the proliferation of facial recognition technology. The letter, published by Big Brother Watch (BBW), highlights disparities between the light touch regulatory environment in the UK compared to other European data protection authorities, given the propensity for misidentifications, poor accuracy and bias, along with the fact the general public is largely unaware that their data is being processed. 

The letter highlights the ICO's decision not to commence enforcement proceedings against PimEyes, the facial recognition search engine, and Facewatch, a company offering live facial recognition services to retail and business customers.  

BBW Advocacy Manager Mark Johnson said: "The Information Commissioner must urgently get a grip on the deluge of private facial recognition companies that are scanning and screening the public's faces both in person and online. The ICO's failure to take robust regulatory action to protect the public's deeply sensitive data is a dereliction of duty and leaves us vulnerable to a range of harms, from being misidentified as a criminal on the high street, to being stalked and harassed online... Where privacy regulators in other countries battle to keep people's personal data safe, the ICO is letting us down and this cannot continue." 

In a statement responding to the letter, an ICO spokesperson said: "Facial recognition technology can bring benefits in helping to prevent and detect crime, but it relies on processing large amounts of sensitive personal data. That is why the law places a high bar for its usage: its use must be necessary and proportionate, and its design must meet expectations of fairness and accuracy."

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Biometrics, facial recognition, blog

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