King's Cross developers defend facial recognition cameras

Monday 12th August 2019 19:30 BST

The devices were installed "in the interests of public safety", a spokesperson for the estate that includes 2,000 homes and seven retail spaces told Sky News.

A number of "detection and tracking methods" are used including facial recognition, they added, but insisted there were "sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public" amid campaigners' concerns.

Canary Wharf is in talks to install similar cameras across its 97-acre estate, the Financial Times reported.

The paper said the Canary Wharf Group, which owns private offices and public spaces in the area, is looking for suppliers to pilot the technology that would monitor up to 140,000 people that pass by daily.

It quoted Stephanie Hare, an independent researcher of facial recognition technologies in the UK, as saying: "What's really worrying is for any worker who doesn't want to participate.

"This is essentially a geofenced experiment, so I don't see how anybody could opt out of it.

"You can't opt out of walking around London, or working there."

The government's Office for Science last year found that in optimal conditions, facial recognition cameras have an error rate of around 0.2%.

But low-resolution footage, poor lighting and image view angle raise the error rate to over 10%.

It also pointed out some studies have found the algorithms can less accurately recognise people from certain ethnic groups.

Critics of the technology say the laws underpinning its use is too weak, and that it disproportionately encroaches on the right to privacy.

Both the government and police argue the law is up to date enough, according to a House of Commons library briefing note published last month.

But the Home Office under Theresa May's government signalled in June it was "reviewing options to simplify and extend the current governance and oversight arrangements for biometrics".

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