CCTV camera in London

Live facial recognition technology will be used for the first time in London to target serious criminals, as well as to help find missing children and vulnerable people, the Metropolitan Police has announced.

Wanted suspects will be placed on “watchlists” and approached by officers if seen by the cameras.

Assistant Commissioner, Nick Ephgrave said the technology will be deployed for the first time “within a month”.

The Metropolitan Police have run trials in several locations including the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, and London’s West End.

The cameras identified 70% of wanted suspects and only generated false alerts in one in 1,000 cases, police said.

Ephgrave said: “Every day our police officers are briefed about suspects they should look out for; live facial recognition improves the effectiveness of this tactic”.

Ephgrave has said the Metropolitan is balancing Article eight’s right to privacy with crime prevention by deploying this tactic. The Assistant Commissioner also said the public would be fully informed of the locations of the deployed technology and insisted images of innocent people would not be stored.

However, the tactic has raised concerns over privacy and data protection issues. The data watchdog warned against police forces deploying the facial recognition trial, in July last year.

At the time, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “We understand the purpose is to catch criminals but these trials also represent the widespread processing of biometric data of thousands of people as they go about their daily lives”.

Denham wanted a legal code of practice to be implemented before the technology was deployed.

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