Facial recognition


Facial recognition technology is being used by police and private companies in publicly accessible places. It breaches everyone’s human rights and is discriminatory and authoritarian. It’s time to ban it. Sign the petition today.

Facial recognition is a dangerously intrusive and discriminatory technology that destroys our privacy rights and forces people to change their behaviour. It has no place on the streets of a free, rights-respecting democracy.

But facial recognition technology is being used by police on our streets and by private companies in publicly accessible places like shopping centres and train stations. It must be banned.

"The police are supposed to protect us and make us feel safe – but I think the technology is intimidating and intrusive."

Liberty client Ed Bridges


Facial recognition works by matching the faces of people walking past special cameras to images of people on a watch list. The technology does this by scanning the distinct points of our faces and creating uniquely identifiable biometric maps – more like fingerprints than photographs.

The watch lists can contain pictures of anyone, including people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing, and the images can come from anywhere – even from our social media accounts.

South Wales Police and the Metropolitan Police have been using live facial recognition in public for years with no public or parliamentary debate.

They’ve used it on tens of thousands of us, at everything from protests and football matches to music festivals. South Wales Police even plans to put the technology on officers’ phones, making it easier to scan us whenever they want.

Some private companies have also used the tech in publicly accessible places including King’s Cross in London, and the Trafford Centre in Manchester.

Facial recognition cameras mounted a on police van in Leicester Square, January 2019


The cameras scan everyone in sight – adults and children – snatching our deeply personal biometric data without our consent. This is a gross violation of our privacy.

And if we know we’re being watched and having our faces scanned, we change our behaviour. We may choose not to express our views in public or risk going to a peaceful protest. We shouldn’t have to change how we live our lives to protect ourselves from unwarranted surveillance. In short, facial recognition tech makes us less free.

And disproportionate surveillance is most keenly felt by people of colour – the Met used facial recognition at Notting Hill Carnival for two years running, and twice in the London Borough of Newham, one of the UK’s most ethnically diverse areas.

Studies have shown that facial recognition technology is more likely to misidentify people of colour, young people and women, leading to them being stopped incorrectly. But we should not be seeking to perfect vast networks of surveillance. More accurate technologies would mean we could all be identified and tracked in real time.

Facial recognition technology has no place on our streets – it must be banned.


While there have been calls to create law governing its use, this will not solve the human rights concerns or the tech’s in-built discrimination.

The US city of San Francisco has banned use of this dangerous tech for policing and security purposes. Two other US cities have done the same.

We must follow their lead in the UK.

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