The UK government has announced a consultation on revisions to its Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. This is the first revision to the code since its introduction in June 2013.

There has been widespread media coverage of the proposed revisions which include the use of facial recognition camera systems by local authorities and the police. Leading global IT media title ZD Net has covered the news in an article which also includes comments from Osborne Clarke partner Tamara Quinn.

Her expanded initial reaction to the proposed revisions are included here:

"It is surprising, to say the least, that the updated draft of the Code of Practice doesn't make the crucial point that the use of live facial recognition technology by the police is a step change from use of standard surveillance systems, adding a whole new dimension of risk to the fundamental privacy rights of individuals. This seems like an unfortunate omission.

"Live facial recognition technology is very controversial and it may be that the Surveillance Camera Commissioner is comfortable letting the Information Commissioner's Office take the lead in providing detailed opinions and guidance.

"Whilst the wording in the draft Code of Practice doesn't provide anywhere near the sort of detail that police forces need to consider when deploying live facial recognition, it is important to realise that there is other really helpful information out there, such as the Opinions issued by the Information Commissioner.

"It isn't all Orwellian doom and gloom. We mustn't lose sight of the fact that both the courts and the Information Commissioner have gone out of their way to acknowledge the very real benefits that live face recognition systems can bring, if – and it is a very significant if – the police take their data privacy obligations seriously and deploy this technology in accordance with the law.

"It is worth remembering that the EU Commission recently back-tracked on its initial proposals on artificial intelligence regulation - which could have effectively banned the use of live face recognition by the police – and has taken a more nuanced approach, proposing to allow many uses, albeit subject to significant limitations.

"Will we find that people are happy to give up some of their individual privacy rights for the sake of the greater good (such as finding missing persons, or preventing terrorism), or, more individualistically, to reduce their own risk of becoming prey to a criminal picked up using a face recognition system?"

For more information on how Osborne Clarke's data protection, privacy and IP lawyers can advise you, please contact Tamara Quinn or your usual contact.

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