Ecl-ips keeps you informed of latest Court judgement on AFR

Surveillance Camera Commissioner welcomes Appeal Court Judgement on AFR


The Ecl-ips team prides itself on keeping ourselves informed of the latest technological and regulatory developments in respect of surveillance cameras. Keeping ourselves informed mean we can provide all the best and latest advice when you want to have a CCTV system installed or upgraded. One important area of this is automated facial recognition (AFR) and our blogs over the past year on this have been one way to keep you informed of the latest developments.

In the most recent development the outgoing Surveillance Camera Commissioner (SCC), Tony Porter, welcomed the Court of Appeal judgement on the use of AFR by South Wales Police in the case bought by a Cardiff resident (R (Bridges) v Chief Constable of South Wales Police).

Ed Bridges, who was being supported by human rights campaigning group Liberty won on three grounds of his appeal, that followed a High Court ruling last year. The Court of Appeal found that the deployments of AFR were not in accordance with the law, that the South Wales Police Data Protection Impact Assessment didn’t comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and they failed in their Public Sector Equality Duty.

Following the judgement on 11th August South Wales Chief Constable Matt Jukes said: “The test of our ground-breaking use of this technology by the courts has been a welcome and important step in its development. I am confident this is a judgment that we can work with. Our priority remains protecting the public, and that goes hand-in-hand with a commitment to ensuring they can see we are using new technology in ways that are responsible and fair.”

Writing in his blog the SCC said that while he supported the use of AFR by the police its use needed to be lawful, justifiable and proportionate. He said the Courts in both their judgements had placed importance on his role in regulating police use of surveillance cameras and their use in conjunction with AFR technology. The Surveillance Camera Code of Practice and the Guidance he had issued to police forces in October 2018 were also viewed as key parts of the legal framework.

“With regard to the lawful use of AFR the court has found there to be deficiencies in the legal framework, this is where my main interest lies. Effectively they have said there needs to be more rigour around the creation of watchlists (who you are looking for) and where the technology can be deployed (do you have intelligence they will be there).”

However, the SCC noted that despite his public calls for the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, which was originally published in 2013, to be updated the Home Office had not yet taken action. In June 2018 the Home Office Biometrics Strategy had made a commitment to update the Code but this had still not taken place.

Meanwhile, the SCC also said that he would consider how he can amend his guidance for the police to ensure they are aware for the potential bias in systems that the courts have raised concerns about surrounding the inherent racial and gender bias in facial recognition algorithms. The SCC said he would also consider what more can be done with manufacturers of the technology to eliminate it.

The SCC also questioned why the Government had decided to bring together his role and that of the Biometrics Commissioner into a single post. A recruitment exercise for the new combined role ended in August. He said neither he nor the outgoing Biometrics Commissioner, Paul Wiles had been consulted on this change and while the job description supplied by the Home Office gave an explanation for it this did not stand up to scrutiny.

The SCC said that, “95% of what I do is not related to facial recognition (although it is emerging technology with a degree of media scrutiny) and the Biometrics Commissioner doesn’t oversee ‘face’ as a biometric.”

The SCC finished by calling again for a full review of the legislative landscape that governs the use of overt surveillance adding that, “I sincerely hope that that all parties, particularly the Home Office and the Home Secretary will finally reflect on the comments of the court and now act in the public interest in a manner in which they have so far failed to do and update the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice.”

Ecl-ips is a well-established CCTV provider. We are also committed to being informed about and adhering to best practice in respect of CCTV use. Our NSI Gold status demonstrates our determination to achieve the highest standards that we can as a security company. If we can help you develop a CCTV system, or indeed audit your existing system, please feel free to contact us.