Exclusive: Facewatch founder urges government to protect facial recognition as crime-fighting tool

GDPR Photo courtesy of Wavestore The Minister for Digital and Culture has offered reassurances over the impact of a data protection law coming into force next year on the use of facial recognition technology for crime-fighting purposes. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is designed to give citizens more control over their personal data, comes into force from 25 May 2018. Simon Gordon, founder of ground-breaking CCTV image sharing platform Facewatch, wrote a letter to Philip Davies MP, expressing concern that the new law could potentially prevent the legitimate use of facial recognition to prevent criminals/suspected criminals and terrorists from being flagged up as well as missing children being found.

He also pointed out that up to one third of most major retailers profits are swallowed up by shop theft thus adding around 1.2 to 1.5% to prices. Facial recognition is already in use or being trialled across the UK in retail outlets, shopping centres, casinos and public buildings and its use to reduce the need for security guards is set to explode. Philip Davies, MP for Shipley near Bradford, passed the letter on to the Minister for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock. Responding to Gordon s letter, Hancock wrote: The Government understands the important role that facial recognition can play in the prevention of crime and wider protection of individuals safety. Accordingly, during the implementation phase of the GDPR the Government will be reviewing the elements of existing data protection laws to ensure that they are sufficiently broad enough to encompass these additional categories where necessary. We will continue to look at all possibilities to maintain high levels of protection for citizens both when implementing the GDPR and once we leave the EU. The law, which emanates from the EU but will still apply regardless of Brexit negotiations, will introduce stiffer penalties for breaches of data protection regulations. Below is the full letter from Simon Gordon, who also owns a wine bar in central London, followed by the response from Hancock, the MP for West Suffolk. Dear Philip I had a very useful meeting with the ICO last week and they flagged a potential problem coming in from Europe around the use of facial recognition for crime prevention.

The issue that is causing a potential problem is that the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which are due to come into force in the UK in May 2018 and which include the following restrictions in Article 9 (which can be found at: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32016R0679&from=EN): Processing of . biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person .. shall be prohibited. Paragraph 1 shall not apply if one of the following applies: . (g) processing is necessary for reasons of substantial public interest, on the basis of Union or Member State law which shall be proportionate to the aim pursued, respect the essence of the right to data protection and provide for suitable and specific measures to safeguard the fundamental rights and the interests of the data subject; The problem with this Article is that it will potentially prevent the legitimate use of facial recognition (which might be caught under the term biometric data ) to prevent criminals/ suspected criminals and terrorists from being flagged up as well as missing children being found. This is an area where the UK leads the way and is going to become a hugely important technology for keeping the country safe and reducing crime. As an example of how important it is to reduce crime, up to 1/3 of most major retailers profits are swallowed up by shop theft thus adding around 1.2 to 1.5% to prices. Facial recognition is already in use or being trialled across the UK in retail outlets, shopping centres, Casinos and public buildings and it s use to reduce the need for security guards is set to explode. It is vital that the UK Government introduces a derogation to enable facial recognition to be used for the prevention of crime otherwise they will be cutting off one of the most transformational crime prevention technologies of modern times. We believe the responsibility for reviewing the GDPR falls under the Departure of Culture Media and Sport (Karen Bradley) and would request that this is tabled with them so that appropriate action can be taken to ensure we do not get caught by this in the UK.

Yours Simon Gordon Dear Philip, Thank you for your letter of 16 January on behalf of, Mr Simon Gordon, Chairman of Facewatch, 13-14 Buckingham Street, London, WC2N 6DF, who has raised concerns about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its impact on matters relating to facial recognition and biometric data for the purposes of crime prevention. As Mr Gordon mentioned, the GDPR will apply in the UK from 25 May 2018. The GDPR will give citizens more control over their personal data, including strengthened rules around the right to erasure and the right to restrict processing. The GDPR sets out the circumstances in which the processing of sensitive personal data which is otherwise prohibited, may take place. It also introduces two new categories of sensitive personal data which include genetic data and biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a person. However, the regulation also enables member states to maintain or impose further conditions (including limitations) in respect of biometric, genetic or health data. The Government understands the important role that facial recognition can play in the prevention of crime and wider protection of individuals safety. Accordingly, during the implementation phase of the GDPR the Government will be reviewing the elements of existing data protection laws to ensure that they are sufficiently broad enough to encompass these additional categories where necessary. We will continue to look at all possibilities to maintain high levels of protection for citizens both when implementing the GDPR and once we leave the EU.

I hope that this reply is helpful. Yours ever The Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP Minister of State for Digital and Culture Visit Europe s leading security event in June 2017 Visit IFSEC International for exclusive access to every security product on the market, live product demonstrations and networking with thousands of security professionals. From access control and video surveillance to smart buildings, cyber, border control and so much more. It is the perfect way to keep up to date, protect your business and enhance your career in the security industry. Click here to register your place now to join us at London Excel on 20 22 June 2017.


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