ICO approves Facewatch's use of facial recognition to prevent crime

03/04/2023 | ICO

In a blog article, Stephen Bonner, Deputy Commissioner for Regulatory Supervision at the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), explained the ICO's decision to take no further action against the live facial recognition company, Facewatch. In concluding its investigation, the ICO is "satisfied the company has a legitimate purpose for using people’s information for the detection and prevention of crime." 

Bonner explained that concerns were highlighted during the investigation, but Facewatch continued to improve its product in response. These improvements include appointing a Data Protection Officer,  reducing the amount of personal data the company collects by focusing on repeat offenders or individuals committing significant offences, and protecting vulnerable people by ensuring they are not classified a “subject of interest”.

In related news, a blog post on the company's website indicates it is the first facial recognition provider to be certified by the Office of the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner (OBSCC) under the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice (SCCP).

The ICO became aware of Facewatch in July 2022 after privacy campaigners Big Brother Watch submitted a complaint against Southern Co-operative over the retailer's use of Facewatch's facial recognition technology in 35 of its 200 stores.

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