On August 15, 2019, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) announced that it had launched an investigation into the use of live facial recognition technology at the King’s Cross development in London. This follows a letter sent by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the owner of the development inquiring as to whether the use of the software was legal. The company responsible for the technology said it was used for the purposes of public safety.

In relation to the investigation, Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “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 stated that she felt deep concern over the increasing use of this technology, particularly in the private sector, and added that there are questions over whether the existing data protection framework has sufficiently kept pace with emerging technologies.

The ICO will examine the ways that the technology is used at King’s Cross, and also whether its operation complies with data protection law. The data protection authority has previously highlighted the importance of ensuring that use of the technology is strictly necessary and proportionate.

View the ICO’s comments.