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IPFS News Link • Surveillance

Facewatch, Met police face lawsuits after facial recognition misidentification

•, By Masha Borak

The girl, who goes under the name Sara to protect her identity, was shopping at Home Bargains in Manchester in February when staff confronted her and threw her out of the store. In the UK's first challenge to facial recognition surveillance, Sara is now taking Facewatch and Home Bargains to court with the help of the digital rights group Big Brother Watch.

"I have never stolen in my life and so I was confused, upset and humiliated to be labeled as a criminal in front of a whole shop of people," she said in a statement.

The organization is also helping mount another legal challenge against London's Metropolitan Police which was brought by Shaun Thompson, an anti-knife crime community worker from London, the group announced last Friday.

Thirty-eight-year-old Thompson was misidentified by the Metropolitan Police's facial recognition database and held by officers for almost 30 minutes, threatening to arrest him. Big Brother Watch says that the cases are the "tip of the iceberg" and that more people are seeking help after being falsely accused after being misidentified by live facial recognition.

Facewatch has acknowledged the misidentification. The company, which has hundreds of cameras in retail spaces, has been facing criticism both from civil rights groups and members of the British Parliament. In September 2023, Big Brother accused the UK Home Office of lobbying on behalf of Facewatch during an investigation into the company launched by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

In its investigation, published in March 2023, ICO concluded that Facewatch's system was permissible under law but also found that the company's policies had breached data protection legislation on several points.

Facewatch was embroiled in another controversy in December last year after former UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson was appointed as a non-executive director of the company. The timing sparked suggestions that the watchdog's head was negotiating with the company while responsible for regulating it.

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