Welsh cops face backlash over ‘shameful’ AFR smartphone app trial

Welsh cops face backlash over 'shameful' AFR smartphone app trial

You’ve got something on your face, mate

SOUTH WALES COPS are set to trial a facial recognition app on officers’ phones, despite being embroiled in a lawsuit over its use of the “intrusive” AFR technology.

In a move that’s been slammed as “shameful” by human rights group Liberty, South Wales Police is preparing a three-month trial of a new facial recognition app that will allow it to identify people of interest – or not, probably – who are stopped on routine patrols.

The force claims, as per the Guardian, that the new app would secure arrests quicker and enable officers to easily resolve cases of mistaken identity.

‘This new app means that, with a single photo, officers can easily and quickly answer the question of ‘are you really the person we are looking for?’,” quipped deputy chief constable Richard Lewis.

“When dealing with a person of interest during their patrols in our communities officers will be able to access instant, actionable data, allowing to them to identify whether the person stopped is, or is not, the person they need to speak to, without having to return to a police station.”

Lewis added that officers testing the app receive additional training and would be under “careful supervision.”

Still, those lacklustre assurances haven’t done much to quell privacy avocates. Liberty, which is backing an ex-Lib Dem councillor Ed Bridges in his legal dispute with South Wales Police over the forces’ using this intrusive surveillance on innocent citizens, has been quick to criticise the move. 

“It is shameful that SWP are rolling out portable facial recognition technology to individual officers while their so-called ‘pilots’ are being challenged by Liberty in court,” said Hannah Couchman at Liberty. “This technology destroys our anonymity in public spaces, chilling our ability to take part in protests and increasing state control over every one of us.

“Far less intrusive means have been used for decades by police to establish a person’s identity where necessary. It’s a gross abuse of power for SWP to roll out routine, on-the-spot, biometric checks, and especially in circumstances where a person isn’t suspected of committing any crime at all.

“This technology is intrusive, unnecessary, and has no place on our streets.” µ

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