The policy surrounding facial recognition, used as a public safety tool by police, has ignited discussions in Europe. This is because a report from the London policing ethics released on Wednesday by The Guardian expressed concern that the software reinforces or perpetuates racism and gender bias. The text, written for the City Hall of the British capital, further concludes that there are important ethical issues involved in the adoption of the "spy camera" by the police.
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Proposal to combine facial recognition and public safety generates controversy in London Photo: Reproduction / iStock
The debates gained strength after the hearing of the Ed Bridges case. The former UK Liberal Democratic Party adviser alleged that the police violated his privacy rights by using face recognition on two daily occasions: when he went shopping for a sandwich and when he participated in a peaceful demonstration against guns.
Around the world, facial recognition is a hot topic. Flaws in mobile phone software became known and gained notoriety in the media. In 2017, a 10-year-old boy managed to bypass Mom's iPhone X Face ID and unlocked the device without difficulty. The similarity between the two misled the technology and sparked debate about possible flaws.
Ten-year-old boy cheats on Face ID and can unlock iPhone X from me
Apple admits iPhone X facial recognition system could be mistaken for family members Photo: Playback / YouTube
When it comes to security applied facial recognition, the system consists of crossing the police database with images of people passing in front of cameras from public places. The objective is to identify suspected criminals, fugitives, missing persons or persons of interest to the security forces. Therefore, the report recommends that facial recognition should be used only if the police can prove that they do not introduce racial or gender bias into operations.
At the other end, the police argue that 10 tests were performed crossing the images of the facial recognition cameras with a specific list of wanted criminals, generating several positive identifications, which were converted into prisons. Public acceptance is also favorable. A survey of 1,092 respondents showed that 57% found police use of the software acceptable. The number soars to 83% when listened Londoners are informed that the technology would be used to locate dangerous offenders.
How facial recognition works
In addition, 50% of respondents said they would feel safer if facial recognition were used in London. But a third of Londoners listened to concern about the impacts of technology on their privacy. In this regard, 56% responded positively when asked if they believed the police would use their personal data in accordance with the law.
Racial and gender issues also appeared in the interview. Nearly half of Londoners surveyed believe the technology would collect more data about some groups and profiles than others. Young, black, and Asian people were less likely to use facial recognition than adults, the elderly, and whites.