Facial recognition software might be controversial but the technology is here to stay after two leading judges threw out a case brought by human rights group Liberty against South Wales Police, ruling that it "met the requirements of the Human Rights Act".
At a three-day hearing back in May, lawyers representing Cardiff resident Ed Bridges had argued that South Wales Police violated his human right to privacy by capturing and processing an image taken of him in public.
Speaking in the High Court today, however, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave said "the current legal regime is adequate to ensure the appropriate and non-arbitrary use of [the technology]".
The judges also ruled that existing data protection law offered enough safeguards for members of the public whose faces were scanned by facial recognition cameras, and that South Wales Police had considered the implications.
Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: "This disappointing judgment does not reflect the very serious threat that facial recognition poses to our rights and freedoms. Facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all.
"It is time that the government recognised the danger this dystopian technology presents to our democratic values and banned its use. Facial recognition has no place on our streets."
A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “We will be reviewing the judgment carefully. We welcome the court’s finding that the police use of live facial recognition (LFR) systems involves the processing of sensitive personal data of members of the public, requiring compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018.
"This new and intrusive technology has the potential, if used without the right privacy safeguards, to undermine rather than enhance confidence in the police. Our investigation into the first police pilots of this technology has recently finished. We will now consider the court’s findings in finalising our recommendations and guidance to police forces about how to plan, authorise and deploy any future LFR systems.
“In the meantime, any police forces or private organisations using these systems should be aware that existing data protection law and guidance still apply.”