It had recently come to light that closed-circuit cameras in the King’s Cross area were being used in conjunction with facial recognition software for surveillance and security. Argent, the company responsible for the deployment, states that it was done in the interest of public safety. However, individual privacy activists are claiming that the cameras constitute a breach of personal privacy and should be removed from operation as soon as possible.
The facial recognition software used together with the mounted cameras utilizes a database of wanted personnel that received images are cross-checked against. The cameras may run afoul of the GDPR legislation for the collection and storage of individual data. Since the facial data that the cameras collect fall under the blanket umbrella of information that is inherently personal, the cameras may already be in contravention of the laws of the country.
Public Safety or Privacy?
In 2017, a truck ran over multiple people on London Bridge. There have also been recent outbreaks of attacks across the country in various locales. To prevent the prevalence of these vents, Argent argues that facial recognition, together with a list of ‘persons of interest’ are a non-intrusive way to deal with the internal threats of the country. However, the company has yet to confirm how many cameras are active in the area. The lack of transparency does little to encourage confidence in the company treating well with the personal data of the public. Another system that is installed in Canary Wharf in East London is similar but doesn’t monitor the public and is instead used for ‘specific threats.’
Privacy campaigners in the city are up in arms about the lack of transparency of the operation. Concerns also abound as to what the collected data is going to be used for. An independent regulatory body called the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is taking an interest in the situation. They stated that in the event of the ICO finding non-compliance with the law, they would take action to the fullest extent for prosecution.