The Met Police spent £200k on controversial facial recognition tech

Keiligh Baker's picture

Britain’s largest police force has been accused of wasting taxpayers' money after it spent more than £200,000 on controversial facial recognition technology that resulted in no arrests.

A freedom of information request by The Independent showed six trial deployments by the Metropolitan Police resulted in only two people being stopped before they were released without charge.

Campaigners at Big Brother Watch, which has already launched a legal challenge over the Met's use of facial recognition tech, said the force was “wasting public money”.

The figures reveal Scotland Yard spent £198,000 on automatic facial recognition software from Japan’s NEC Corporation between the 2015-16 and 2017-18 financial years.

In the same period, it paid £23,800 for hardware, including the cameras used to record people’s faces.

On top of the total spend of £222,000, the force has paid for uniformed and undercover police officers at each of the six deployments but said the cost could not be precisely calculated.

Facial recognition-linked cameras scan crowds and public spaces in attempt to identify people in real-time, by matching faces against a police database. The face of each and every person passing by an automated facial recognition camera will be scanned and analysed, effectively subjecting everyone within view to a covert biometric identity check.

Any potential matches are flashed up as an alert to officers, who then compare the faces and decide whether to stop someone.

Only one other force in the UK, South Wales Police, uses live facial recognition.

A Met Police spokesman defended the use of the technology and said that a deployment in central London in December, after the period covered by the freedom of information request, resulted in two people wanted for violence offences being arrested.

Welcome to Prolific London

Here's why we're the City's new must-read title for marketing and tech news