UK Top Cop’s Big Brother Plan Panned

Human rights groups have hit out after Britain's most senior police chief said homeowners should all fit CCTV cameras to their houses at eye-level so that crimes could be investigated using facial recognition technology.

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, said homeowners should consider fitting CCTV to identify burglars, and called on families and businesses to install cameras at eye level — to exploit advances in facial recognition technology.

"We've got a strategy to encourage people to move their cameras down to eye level," he told LBC radio.

"Facial recognition software has got better, and we can now apply it to images of burglaries, and then compare them with images we take when we arrest people."

"What we need to be able to do is to be able to compare that photograph with the images we have of people committing a crime. Taking the tops of their heads is not that helpful for facial recognition which relies on the eyes and the configuration of the area around the nose and the mouth. So we're trying to get people to, ideally, add a camera at face level," he said.

But human rights campaigners were quick to condemn his suggestion. "The proposals on increasing the amount of privately owned CCTV cameras are quite frankly Orwellian and risk turning members of the public into an extension of the police," Renate Samson of Big Brother Watch told the Mail on Sunday.

"Private CCTV is completely unregulated. Recommending greater use of CCTV to gather more images of people's faces — often innocent people's faces — undermines the security of each and every one of us."

MPs Condemn Snapshots

A House of Commons committee this weekend released a report that warned against the increasing use of widespread surveillance using facial recognition technology, without proper regulation to protect people's human rights.

Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: "As we struggle to remember ever more passwords and pin numbers in everyday life, the potential benefits of using biometric technologies to verify identity are obvious. However, biometrics also introduce risks and raise important ethical and legal questions relating to privacy and autonomy.

"We are not against the police using biometric technologies like facial recognition software to combat crime and terrorism. But we were alarmed to discover that the police have begun uploading custody photographs of people to the Police National Database and using facial recognition software without any regulatory oversight — some of the people had not even been charged."