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Metropolitan Police's facial recognition system flags innocent people 81% of the time

CCTV is seen by some as a problematic and Orwellian technology that infringes on civil liberties. Such claims are usually made based on the perceived ineffectiveness of the technology; now, an independent report seems to back up these claims, finding that 81% of people flagged up in London on the Met Police’s CCTV network are actually innocent of any crime.

The Met Police has been using its live facial recognition (LFR) technology since August 2016 and has conducted ten trials in various places around the capital. The study which was carried out by academics at the University of Essex, and commissioned by Scotland Yard, observed the accuracy of the system at six out of ten of the trials and found that of 42 matches that were flagged up, just eight were verified as correct meaning just 19% of detections were correct.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Pete Fussey said:

“Our report conducted a detailed, academic, legal analysis of the documentation the Met Police used as a basis for the face recognition trials. There are some shortcomings and if [the Met] was taken to court there is a good chance that would be successfully challenged.”

For its part, the Met said it was disappointed by the negative tone of the report and focused on a different set of numbers. According to Sky, the Met prefers to measure the accuracy of LFR by comparing the number of successful and unsuccessful matches against the total number of faces processed by the system. When looking at it this way, the error rate was just 0.1% which certainly doesn’t seem too bad at all.

The anti-surveillance group, Big Brother Watch, is currently challenging the use of the technology in court. The group’s director, Silkie Carlo, said the report was definitive and that “there is really no recovery from this”. It’ll be interesting to see what happens going forward as CCTV technology becomes more and more sophisticated.

Source: Sky News

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