News By/Courtesy: Shreya Sahoo | 29 Sep 2019 12:57pm IST


  • Police of South Wales employed to ascertain compare with watchlist
  • What the Judges of Cardiff decide
  • Does the Automated Facial Recognition Technology pass the test of disproportionality



The pilot project conducted by South Wales Police using Automated Facial Recognition Technology (AFRT) which was held in Cardiff was not held unlawful or although it raised questions about invasion of right to privacy. The process of AFRT involves collecting, processing and storing of various data such as facial images, biometric data, metadata with time and location related to face or facial biometric. The project had deployed surveillance cameras which clicked pictures of public that could be then compared with the digital images stored SWP who are on watch list. The case was filed by ED bridges who is civil liberty activist who contended that his facial biometric was stored and processed without his consent, when he was in its vicinity. The petitioner challenged this instance on the following grounds:

  1. The Project “AFRT locate” is in contravention to the right of privacyand is in clear violation of European Union Convention on Human Rights.
  2. Section 4(4) of the Data Protection Act 1998 which provides for “data protection principle” is breached.
  3. SWP did not comply with the legal mandate rendered under Section 34 and Section 64 of the Data Protection Act 1998.
  4. Failure of SWP to comply with the public sector equality duty.

The High Court ruled against the petitioner saying that since he did not feature on the watch lists data compiled by the SWP he is not a victim. Since, he is not a victim therefore he cannot challenge the watch list or the surveillance. The storage of data of watchlist is lawful and well within the authority of common law. Further, AFRT cannot be held to be ultravires just because of the reason that there is not statute to back it. The court qouted an excerpt from the judgment laid down in R(Catt) vs. Association of Police which said “At common law the police have the power to obtain and store information for policing purposes, i.e. broadly speaking for the maintenance of public order and the prevention and detection of crime.” The judges further deliberated that the Section 34 and Section 64 of the Data Protection Act 1998 were in compliance while the AFR Locate was deployed. The phrase “intrusive method” of acquiring information was interpreted by the court in this judgment wherein they distinguished the intrusion by AFR using CCTV with intrusion in pure physical terms. It was observed that “No physical entry, contact or force is necessary when using AFR Locate to obtain biometric data. It simply involves taking a photograph of someone’s face and the use of algorithms to attempt to match it with photographic images of faces on a watch list. The method is no more intrusive than the use of CCTV in the streets.”

Further AFR Locator does satisfy the test of proportionality laid down in the case of Bank Mellat v. Her Majesty’s Treasury because the motive behind the use of such a locater is legitimate from security aspect and in furtherance of this aim SWP’s action of conducting such a pilot project is connected to achieving this legitimate aim. Moreover, there is no way of using a method which will be less intrusive than this. AFR Locator does look out for a balance between the interest of public at large and an individual’s right to privacy, establishing that it is not a disproportionate surveillance.

Section Editor: Prithvjjit Mukherjee | 29 Sep 2019 21:53pm IST

Tags : United Kingdom

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