In a recent wave of concern surrounding surveillance technology, a cross-party coalition of 65 British lawmakers has demanded a temporary halt to live facial recognition use on the streets of the UK. This technology, which has been previously used by British police at large public events, has drawn criticism from various circles, including civil liberties groups like Amnesty International. The controversy isn’t confined to Britain alone; the European Union is also contemplating a blanket ban on the technology.
The call for reassessment comes on the heels of a proposal by policing minister Chris Philp at the ruling Conservative party’s annual conference. Philp suggested a new database of British passports could be utilized for biometric surveillance to catch criminals, a concept that has drawn its own share of criticism. The lawmakers’ collective statement demanded that UK police and private companies “immediately stop using live facial recognition for public surveillance.”
The petition has gained support from politicians across party lines, including veteran Conservative MP David Davis, Labour politicians Diane Abbott and John McDonnell, and Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey. Additionally, several non-profits and charities have backed the campaign, like Big Brother Watch, the Runnymede Trust and Foxglove. Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, went on record stating, “This dangerously authoritarian technology has the potential to turn populations into walking ID cards in a constant police line-up.”
The consensus is clear: there needs to be an immediate pause in the use of such intrusive technology. There’s an urgent requirement for parliamentary scrutiny and a broader democratic debate before integrating such privacy-altering tech into British life. As this story unfolds, it will indeed be interesting to see how it impacts the future of surveillance technology worldwide.