Liberty took south Wales Police to court with Ed Bridges who was twice scanned by facial recognition technology. Today the Court of Appeal said the force’s use of it breaches privacy rights, data protection laws and equality laws. South Wales police must now stop using the technology.
Facial recognition technology scans faces of passers by and ‘matches’ them to images on secretive watch lists.
Ed Bridges was scanned by the technology first on a busy Cardiff high street in December 2017, and again when he was at a protest in March 2018. South Wales Police have since used the technology around 70 times and regularly use it on crowds at major public events. South Wales Police are pioneering the use of the technology in the UK and are officially still conducting a Home Office-sponsored trial, which began in early 2017 and has no end date.
A rising tide of opponents of the technology have long argued that it is an inherently oppressive, dystopian and discriminatory surveillance tool. The victory is hailed as a huge first step in the fight against the technology and will open the gates for more cases against users of the technology and for demands for its banning. Liberty is already calling on government to take swift action to ban the technology.
Cardiff city and Swansea football fans also protested against its use in January, with backing from The Football Supporters’ Association.
Ed Bridges said:
“I’m delighted that the Court has agreed that facial recognition clearly threatens our rights.
“This technology is an intrusive and discriminatory mass surveillance tool. For three years now South Wales Police has been using it against hundreds of thousands of us, without our consent and often without our knowledge. We should all be able to use our public spaces without being subjected to oppressive surveillance.”