King's Cross

King’s Cross facial recognition plans withdrawn

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Nicola Byrne

The use of the technology by the King’s Cross Partnership, backed by developer Argent, came under fire from the public after the UK’s data privacy regulator launched an investigation in August.

Whilst the examination by the ICO is still ongoing, the King’s Cross Estate shared a statement clarifying the work for potential introduction of facial recognition tech, FRT, in King’s Cross has been stopped.

Two FRT cameras, covering a single location at King’s Boulevard, were operational between May 2016 and March 2018. According to the partnership, data processed via the facial recognition system was regularly deleted, with the final deletion taking place in March 2018.

King's Blvd

King’s Boulevard where two facial recognition cameras were in place for two years

The statement also said the footage was never used for marketing or other commercial purposes, and was used only to help the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police prevent and detect crime.

In a statement regarding the investigation, Elizabeth Denham, ICO’s information commissioner, said: “Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives, in order to identify them, is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all. That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding.”

Denham added she was “deeply concerned” about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, “not only by law enforcement agencies but also increasingly by the private sector”.

The King’s Cross Estate has no plans to reintroduce any forms of FRT, and added: “We note the broad debate now underway about the use of FRT and how to balance and combine keeping people safe and protecting their privacy, and the prospect of legal and regulatory developments in this area of emerging technology.”

Alex Edds, director of innovation at JLL, responded to the news on Twitter: “Interesting to see the challenges emerging for adopting this tech in real life scenarios. Good example of tech built in a bubble hitting the reality of human perceptions and behaviours. You need to engage your customers at the beginning and find appropriate solutions.”

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