UNITED KINGDOM: Stop the Met Police using authoritarian facial recognition cameras

(Big Brother Watch on Crowd JusticeBig Brother Watch is calling on the Government and the Metropolitan Police to immediately end the police’s lawless use of dangerously authoritarian facial recognition cameras. 

The Met has targeted Notting Hill Carnival twice as well as Remembrance Sunday with the China-style surveillance cameras – even though police don’t have a lawful basis for using them. It must stop.

These real-time facial recognition cameras are biometric checkpoints, identifying members of the public without their knowledge. Police have begun feeding secret watchlists to the cameras, containing not only criminals but suspects, protesters, football fans and innocent people with mental health problems.

Big Brother Watch has joined with Baroness Jenny Jones to demand an end to the police’s use of real-time facial recognition cameras. Baroness Jones, a member of the House of Lords, fears that she could end up on a facial recognition watchlist when conducting her parliamentary and political duties. A photo of her was held on the Met’s “domestic extremism” database and her political activities were monitored while she sat on an official committee scrutinising the Met and stood to be London’s mayor.

However, facial recognition cameras mean that even if you’re not on a police database now, you could be soon. Thousands of biometric photos of innocent members of the public who aren’t even on these secret watchlists are being taken and stored too following incorrect matching.

Big Brother Watch conducted a Freedom of Information campaign and discovered the Met’s facial recognition is disastrously inaccurate, wrongly matching innocent people 98% of the time. In a step change for policing in the UK, those photos of innocent people wrongly matched are being stored for 1 to 12 months on police databases.

Facial recognition is the latest Orwellian mass surveillance tool to be lawlessly rolled out by the state.

Public outcry, shocking inaccuracy statistics, and the absence of appropriate legal power have not deterred the Met from forcing this authoritarian surveillance tool on an unsuspecting public. The Met plans to dramatically increase its use of facial recognition with 7 more deployments planned for the next five months. 

Meanwhile, the Home Office has spent £2.6m encouraging police to use automated facial recognition – despite lacking any legal basis to use the surveillance tech.

This sets a dangerous precedent.


Big Brother Watch and Baroness Jones have written to the Metropolitan Police and Home Secretary demanding that they end their lawless use of dangerously authoritarian facial recognition cameras. It is a clear breach of privacy rights and freedom of expression in the UK.

We have instructed Rosa Curling of Leigh Day solicitorsStephen Cragg QC and Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers. Liberty has sent a pre-action letter to South Wales Police calling on that force to end its use of automated facial recognition.

If they do not, we intend to take them to court – but we can only do this with your help.

Pledge now to protect civil liberties, uphold the rule of law, and roll back the surveillance state. 



For enquiries and interviews, please contact 07505 448925 / 0207 340 6030 or info@bigbrotherwatch.org.uk

Big Brother Watch’s crowdjustice page can be found here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/face-off/

Big Brother Watch and Baroness Jones have instructed Rosa Curling of Leigh Day solicitorsStephen Cragg QC and Adam Straw of Doughty Street Chambers.

Big Brother Watch’s report, Face Off: the lawless growth of facial recognition in UK policing can be found here: https://bigbrotherwatch.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Face-Off-final-digital-1.pdf

Big Brother Watch launched its campaign against the police’s use of automated facial recognition last month in parliament with 15 NGOs: Big Brother Watch, Article 19, defenddigitalme, Football Supporters Federation, Index on Censorship, Institute of Race Relations, Liberty, The Monitoring Group, Netpol, Open Rights Group, Police Action Lawyers Group, Race Equality Foundation, Race On The Agenda, Runnymede Trust, Tottenham Rights.