The data protection regulator for the U.K. has opened an investigation into the use of facial recognition technology at property developer Argent's 67-acre estate in London.
“We have launched an investigation following concerns reported in the media regarding the use of live facial recognition in the King’s Cross area of central London, which thousands of people pass through every day,” said U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham, according to the Financial Times. “As well as requiring detailed information from the relevant organisations about how the technology is used, we will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law.”
She added that taking a closer look at the technology was a priority for the Information Commissioner’s Office. “My office and the judiciary are both independently considering the legal issues and whether the current framework has kept pace with emerging technologies and people’s expectations about how their most sensitive personal data are used,” Denham explained.
A spokesperson for Argent did not provide any details about the technology's use, while Camden Council, within which King's Cross sits, was unaware of its use in the area.
“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 said.
The U.K. isn't the only country with concerns about facial recognition. In May, members of Congress in the U.S. supported a plan to draft legislation aimed at the use of facial recognition software by law enforcement.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform called for action on the plan, which gathered support from both sides of the aisle.
“You’ve hit the sweet spot that brings progressives and conservatives together,” Rep. Mark Meadows told committee Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings. “When you have a diverse group on this committee, as diverse as you might see on the polar ends, I’m here to tell you we’re serious about this, and let’s get together and work on legislation. The time is now before it gets out of control.”