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High costs and knowledge gaps slowing wider rollout of LFR

The use of live facial recognition technology has been subject to two separate legal challenges and was the basis of an independent study commissioned to look at its potential biases.

The NPCC biometrics lead has admitted that there's still "a degree of nervousness" about using live facial recognition (LFR) technology, despite the fact that deployments are now subject to APP and legal issues have been addressed.

During a session at the NPCC/APCC summit last week, chief constable Jeremy Vaughan discussed the factors influencing a more tentative rollout of this technology.

While retrospective facial recognition is more widely used across UK policing, only a handful of forces - including the Met and his own South Wales Police - routinely deploy LFR.

South Wales' use has been subject to two separate legal challenges, while an independent study into its wider use - published this year - found no 'statistically significant' bias in how LFR is used on demographics such as gender and race.

The latter prompted CC Vaughan's force to resume its use of LFR; in July, he told the Welsh Affairs Committee that issues arising from the legal challenges had been addressed successfully. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, CC Vaughan remains a huge advocate but accepts there are wider considerations preventing a more widespread rollout.

“There’s a few things. The first is there’s still a degree of nervousness about the use of the technology, there’s still a degree of misunderstanding. Part of the reason Alun [South Wales PCC Alun Michael] and I speak at different venues is to get over that lack of understanding…

"Partly it’s cost, you’ve got to build an infrastructure around these things…you’re spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to own your own algorithm and to own the technology."

Ultimately the live deployment of this technology is detailed in APP which is "out there for policing to use".

“More and more forces are using it, [and] more and more forces will. These things just take a little time."

When asked whether LFR could be used in the context of stop and search, CC Vaughan said it's not currently on the cards.

“Deploying it in certain areas to check whether somebody should be stopped/searched, I’m not sure – as it currently stands – that I can't see that play in effect operationally."

He highlighted that, as per the APP, the deployments are "against a specific watchlist of people that we probably want to detain". 

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