Met Police facial recognition technology will hit BAME communities the hardest

People on a busy pedestrian crossing
Afroze Fatima Zaidi

The London Metropolitan Police has announced plans to roll out facial recognition technology. As part of these plans, suspects will go on “watchlists” and will be approached by officers if spotted on cameras.

Civil liberties group Big Brother has criticised the decision, saying it’s “an enormous expansion of the surveillance state and a serious threat to civil liberties in the UK”. And there are also concerns about the accuracy of the technology used. Big Brother director Silkie Carlo said the rollout:

flies in the face of the independent review showing the Met’s use of facial recognition was unlawful, risked harming public rights and was 81% inaccurate.

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She added:

This is a breathtaking assault on our rights and we will challenge it, including by urgently considering next steps in our ongoing legal claim against the Met and the Home Secretary.

Racism

As well as the issue of civil liberties, there are serious concerns about how the software will impact BAME communities. The racism inherent in facial recognition software has been well-reported. What’s more, overly-surveilled groups such as Muslims, Black people and Asian people are at even greater risk:

What’s more, Met Police’s announcement came in the same week it was reported that the EU is considering a ban on facial recognition “to prevent the technology being abused”:

Precedents

Sadly, the misuse of facial recognition to criminalise minorities and vulnerable groups is not merely hypothetical. Examples already abound of how facial recognition has been misused, for instance in China with the targeting of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities:

Similarly, in August 2019, misuse of facial recognition against Black people in the US city of Detroit came to light. Immigration rights groups have also flagged serious concerns over the way US immigration control has used the technology:

So for those worried about the use of facial recognition signalling a dystopian future, there’s bad news. For criminalised communities and People of Colour, that future is already here.

Featured image via Piqsels

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