Office worker launches Britain’s first major legal challenge to use of surveillance technology

Office worker who was captured by police facial recognition camera while Christmas shopping launches Britain’s first major legal challenge to use of surveillance technology.

The BBC reported that Ed Bridges decided to launch legal action after being picked up by a facial recognition unit on two occasions.

  • Ed Bridges had his image captured by facial recognition cameras while shopping
  • He was then ‘recognised’ at a peaceful anti-arms-trade demo the following year
  • He and civil rights campaigners Liberty are taking South Wales Police to court
  • They argue the use of the technology breaches his human rights 

The first major legal challenge to police use of automated facial recognition surveillance will begin in Cardiff today. A man whose image was taken while doing some Christmas shopping in Cardiff, by cameras operated by South Wales Police, says the system breached his human rights, blaming weak regulation.

Civil rights group Liberty, who will be representing office worker Ed Bridges, has even compared the current use of the tool to taking DNA or fingerprints without consent.

It says it breached Bridges’ human rights to privacy, freedom of assembly, and freedom from discrimination. South Wales Police defends using AFR but has not commented on the case. Mr Bridges told the BBC that in December 2017: ‘I popped out of the office to do a bit of Christmas shopping and on the main pedestrian shopping street in Cardiff, there was a police van.

‘By the time I was close enough to see the words ‘automatic facial recognition’ on the van, I had already had my data captured by it.

‘That struck me as quite a fundamental invasion of my privacy.’

He was also ‘recognised’ by the cameras at a peaceful protest against the arms trade, in 2018. His legal challenge argues the use of the tool breached his human right to privacy as well as data protection and equality laws.

COMMENT

Although the use of these devices has been justified for numerous reasons, this is always the case, the pattern is consistent:

Create a problem

Exaggerate the problem

Create fear

Offer a solution

Further erode civil liberties

 

We have already reached the age where protests are illegal, unless they are granted permission, well in advance, to allow the authorities to either, prevent, sabotage or divert attention. You may at first glance believe that to be a good thing, but most people’s intake of current affairs is at best, little more than a fleeting glance, therefore what we are presented in little snippets may be far removed from the truth.

In fact, I myself have been in the vicinity of a protest in London, where there was absolutely no trouble whatsoever, but I aw images of burned out cars released that had nothing to do with the event, but they still succeeded in creating the image of hooliganism, where in fact it was just people protesting about basic essentials.

We are now in an age when the authorities are using this technology to make a digital recording of every one of us, thereby enabling them to identify us anywhere at any time. It will not be long when even more draconian laws are in place and anyone seen where they should not be, will be prosecuted. This must  be objected to, while we are still free to object.

 

 

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