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Retrospective facial recognition to be used by the London police

Retrospective facial recognition to be used by the London police

Retrospective facial recognition to be used by London police starting late this year or early next year.



The UK’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has gotten authorization to use retrospective facial recognition technology, and will likely begin buying and using the technology as early as the end of this year. This technology has been tried and tested by the South Wales police force and has already proven how useful it can be to law enforcement.  We recently published an article on the use of facial recognition technology by various government agencies in the United States, however it is important to note that unlike some of the US agencies mentioned, the London Metropolitan Police will not be using live facial recognition.


A four-year contract signed recently will deploy the use of retrospective facial recognition in London in the coming months.


A four-year contract has recently been signed with Northgate Public Services, worth £3,084,000 to deploy the use of this technology in the coming months. This technology is expected to result in a significant amount of time saved in officers being able to reconcile an image of a person with their identity. Images that have been captured by cameras at crime scenes like burglaries, assaults, shootings or images shared or submitted by members of the public, will soon be used to identify persons, using retrospective facial recognition. This is expected to help make significant progress in solving crime and keeping citizens of London safe.


While retrospective facial recognition is less controversial than live facial recognition, the Metropolitan police will undergo consultations on governance before using this technology.


Unlike live facial recognition which compares live images with those on a specific watchlist, retrospective facial recognition will allow matching with a much broader list. Live facial recognition is considered a lot more controversial and has received quite a bit of backlash, including from the Information Commissioner. Her remarks were recently quoted on Forbes regarding live facial recognition. She commented that “We should be able to take our children to a leisure complex, visit a shopping centre or tour a city to see the sights without having our biometric data collected and analysed with every step we take.” Although retrospective facial recognition is less controversial, the Metropolitan Police Service is consulting with the London Policing Ethics Panel (LPEP) about governance, and is expected to meet the panel to discuss the project next month.


“Even though it is retrospective facial recognition, photographs and videos are processed for the purpose of uniquely identifying an individual, therefore the additional requirements for carrying out sensitive processing should be observed and a DPIA might be required”, points out Cristina Contero Almagro, Partner in Aphaia.

Do you use AI in your organisation and need help ensuring compliance with AI regulations? We can help you. Aphaia provides both GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 consultancy services, including Data Protection Impact AssessmentsAI Ethics Assessments and Data Protection Officer outsourcing. We can help your company get on track towards full compliance. Contact us today.

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