The London Policing Ethics Panel (LPEP) has drawn up a set of guidelines on the ethical application of facial recognition technology in law enforcement.
The ethical framework draws from previous guidelines issued by the LPEP in 2018 and was partially influenced by a survey of London residents’ thoughts on facial recognition ethics, which found that 57% of Londoners expressed provisional support for police use of facial recognition software; when respondents were asked if they approved of the use of facial recognition specifically for the purpose of searching for ‘serious’ offenders. While around 50% of those surveyed said they would feel safer if facial recognition software were widely deployed, a third of respondents said they were concerned about the privacy implications.
The LPEP’s full report into facial recognition ethics lays out five conditions which must be met in order for London’s Metropolitan Police (Met) to implement live facial recognition software:
- The benefits afforded to public safety by deploying the software must objectively outweigh levels of potential public distrust of the technology;
- The technology may not be applied in such a way as to generate racial or gender bias;
- Each individual deployment of facial recognition must be fully assessed to ensure it is ‘both necessary and proportionate’;
- Operators of the software must be fully trained on accountability and risk assessment issues; and
- Both the Met and the Mayor of London’s Police and Crime Office must produce their own guidelines to ensure the safety and security of facial recognition use.
Panel Chair Dr Suzanne Shale said: “Our report takes a comprehensive look at the potential risks associated with the Met’s use of live facial recognition technology. “Given how much of an impact digital technology can have on the public’s trust in the police, ensuring that the use of this software does not compromise this relationship is absolutely vital. To reduce the risks associated with using facial recognition software, our report suggests five steps that should be taken to make sure the relationship between the police and the public is not compromised. We will be keeping a close eye on how the use of this technology progresses to ensure it remains the subject of ethical scrutiny.”