Be transparent with comms around facial recognition tech, says CIPR AI Panel

Firms must be transparent in their communications around the use of facial recognition systems, a panel on PR and artificial intelligence has advised, amid the controversy of the technology being used at London's Kings Cross without public knowledge.

The owner of the 67-acre site in the King’s Cross area was among the first property firms to admit to using facial recognition software for what it says is to "ensure public safety".

"These cameras use a number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition, but also have sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public," developer Argent stated.

UK biometrics commissioner Prof Paul Wiles is among those expressing concern, urging the government to act on the use of such technology by the private sector.

The CIPR AI Panel also urged caution today. "The only way to address the growing public concerns on facial recognition is through ethical, up-front communication," said Panel deputy chair Kerry Sheehan.

"Public safety benefits derived from facial recognition technologies will not be gained if issues around public trust are not addressed.

"Concerns around facial recognition already include bias, the lack of oversight and regulatory architecture, and the lack of operational transparency. There is currently no law governing the use of facial recognition in the UK. Therefore, it is critical that security services and business communicate openly about these technologies to ensure the public understand how and why they are being used. Facial recognition should never be rolled out ‘by the back door’.

"Facial recognition technology has and will deliver significant improvements to society and the economy – but the benefits will only be realised if the public concerns are addressed, and that process starts with open communication."

The Guardian has reported that London Mayor Sadiq Khan has written to Robert Evans, CEO of the King’s Cross development, to ask for more information "about exactly how this technology is being used".

Khan has also asked for "reassurance" that Evans has been "liaising with government ministers and the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure its use is fully compliant with the law as it stands".

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