Watchdog warns over police database of millions of facial images


An official watchdog has issued a fresh warning over the police’s use of more than 20m facial images on their searchable databases, more than five years after the courts ruled that the inclusion of images of innocent people was unlawful. Paul Wiles, the biometrics commissioner, says in his annual report that the police’s use of facial images has gone far beyond their original use for custody purposes and forces are using facial recognition software to try to identify individuals in public places.In one recent example, the Metropolitan police used facial imaging to check those attending the Notting Hill carnival against a force watchlist.

“Facial images are just the first in a new wave of biometrics. I am aware that the police are already experimenting with voice recognition technology and others such as iris, gait and vein analysis are commercially available,” says Wiles in his annual report published on Wednesday. He notes that while facial images have been used by the police since the birth of photography, the development of digital images, their storage on a national database, the use of powerful searching algorithms and the deployment of such technologies in public spaces transforms facial images into something new.

Wiles says that unlike DNA and fingerprints, images can be taken without the subject’s knowledge. Facial images of about 90% of the adult population already exist in passports and driving licences.(theguardian)…[+]