University of Cambridge > > Computer Laboratory Security Seminar > A Sociotechnical Audit: Assessing Police use of Facial Recognition

A Sociotechnical Audit: Assessing Police use of Facial Recognition

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The adoption of facial recognition by police has been the subject of significant debate. Police often advocate for this technology to help prevent crime, but this technology can also threaten fundamental rights. We propose a “sociotechnical audit” as a tool to help outside stakeholders evaluate the ethics and legality of police use of facial recognition. Developed for England and Wales, this audit extends to all types of facial recognition for identification, including live, retrospective, and mobile phone facial recognition. We developed this audit using existing literature and feedback from academia, government, civil society, and police organisations. The audit can help reveal the risks of facial recognition, evaluate legal compliance, and inform policy and oversight.

We apply this audit to three British police deployments and find that all three fail to meet ethical and legal standards for the governance of facial recognition. We highlight the lack of (a) evidence of a lawful interference with privacy rights, (b) transparent evaluations of discrimination, (c) measures for remedy for harmed persons, and (d) regular oversight from an independent ethics body and the wider community. The harms of facial recognition in policing move beyond the issue of bias in the technology, and these broader issues of privacy, discrimination, accountability, and oversight need urgent attention. Ultimately, we recommend regulators, civil society groups, and researchers to use this audit to scrutinise police use of facial recognition, evaluate biometric technologies in other contexts, and join calls for a ban on police use of facial recognition in public spaces.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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