NATIONAL PHYSICAL Laboratory testing of facial recognition system algorithms employed by the Metropolitan Police Service and South Wales Police has concluded that the technology can be used in a way that does not discriminate based on gender, age or ethnicity. As a result, live facial recognition cameras will now be brought back into use. Thanks to prior testing conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Metropolitan Police Service and South Wales Police knew that the facial recognition technology deployed was underpinned by a high-performing algorithm. The aim of the testing was to develop an in-depth understanding of the performance of the algorithms when used in operational environments. The three policing use cases were live facial recognition, retrospective facial recognition and operator-initiated facial recognition. In terms of live facial recognition, a live camera feed compares those facial images captures with a pre-determined ‘Watch List’ in order to pinpoint individuals who are on that list. Such lists feature people suspected of involvement in crimes and deemed likely by the police service to be at a location where the facial recognition cameras are being deployed. Data associated with a match is held for a period of up to 24 hours. In the event of no match, it will then be immediately and automatically deleted. The National Physical Laboratory test plan was specifically designed to help identify any impact this technology may have on any protected characteristics, with a particular focus on race, age and gender. Entitled ‘Facial Recognition Technology in Law Enforcement: Equitability Study’, the National Physical Laboratory’s 34-page report – authored by Dr Tony Mansfield – delivers an “impartial, scientifically underpinned and evidence-based analysis” of the performance of the facial recognition algorithm currently used by the Metropolitan Police Service and South Wales Police.
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