UK to spend £55 million on facial recognition surveillance to 'identify shoplifters'

The UK government has announced a new  £55 million investment in facial recognition systems, which would include using mobile units to scan the faces of individuals in public to identify shoplifters, according to the Daily Mail.

The investment, which is part of a Criminal Justice Bill, will be used over the next four years. It will include the use of law enforcement driving live facial recognition vans with cameras around high-traffic areas.

Last October, the Metropolitan Police requested the top 12 retailers in the area send CCTV images of their 30 most common shoplifters who have not been identified. After the images were received and cross-referenced with the custody database, law enforcement officials were able to identify a majority of the suspects. 

After the success of this program, the UK is now looking to go one step further. 

According to the Daily Mail, the Met’s director of intelligence stated that the accuracy of the algorithm used to identify suspects has greatly improved over the last several years. The technology now can identify individuals even if they are wearing a hat or a mask, or they are facing at an angle that is not easily identifiable.

“The alternative to using facial recognition would be an officer manually checking CCTV against custody images, which could take hundreds of hours,” Director of Intelligence Lindsey Chiswick explained.

However, not everyone has expressed enthusiasm about the implementation of this technology on such a wide scale.

Silkie Carlo, who is the director of civil liberties at a campaign group called “Big Brother Watch,” called the technological investment, “an abysmal waste of public money.”

“This Orwellian tech has no place in Britain. Criminals should be brought to justice, but papering over the cracks of broken policing with Orwellian tech is not the solution,” she said.

Image: Title: silkie carlo


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