Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Note to MP on Face Recognition Technologies

At the behest of Privacy International, I have written to my MP, Layla Moran about the expansion in the deployment of face recognition technologies.

Dear Layla,

 A recent survey of over 100 MPs, carried out by YouGov on behalf of Privacy International, indicates that 70% of MPs don’t know whether facial recognition technology (FRT) is being used in public spaces in their constituency. I would appreciate it if you could investigate how widespread the deployment of face recognition systems is in the Abingdon area, specifically but also in our wider Oxford West & Abingdon constituency.

 The Home Office, on the orders of policing minister, Chris Philp, is making plans, in blatant breach of the UK GDPR, to use FRT on the UK passport photo database and immigration records to identify individuals. There are also reports of closed door meetings between Mr Philp and the FRT company, Facewatch. In the wake of those meetings, the minister has demanded increased the use of FRT across retail spaces and the Home Office issued a warning to the Information Commissioner’s Office that their investigation into Facewatch should produce a positive outcome, otherwise they would be getting a complaint from the minister.

 Widespread and unchecked use of facial recognition tech, building on the infrastructure of mass surveillance that has grown exponentially in the 21st century, is creating a surveillance society where everyone is identified and tracked everywhere they go. This poses serious threats to our human rights; not only the right to privacy but our right to protest and freedom of expression. All this is taking place within a democratic vacuum. Successive UK governments, for the past three decades, rather than deploying legislative checks and balances against this mass surveillance, in the public interest, have, too often, encouraged and exploited these developments for their own short term political ends and to undermine fundamental rights.

 Face recognition tech is not the route to more effective or enlightened policing. Palestinians have long suffered oppression facilitated by technologies of mass surveillance. The Palestinian territories are one of the most intensive spaces for the testing of military and surveillance technologies that are then exported all round the world. Yet that intensive surveillance did not prevent the mass killings by Hamas of 1200 Israeli citizens on 7 October.  Nor did it stop the Netanyahu government from reacting brutally to those murders, indiscriminately and repeatedly bombing civilians while cutting off access to all basic necessities, killing and maiming thousands in the process.

 Mass surveillance is never the answer, with or without FRT but when it comes to the deployment of face recognition technology, the public have a right to know if it is being used in their local area and in public spaces. So, I would really appreciate you and your staff making representations to obtain the following information:

1. Is FRT is being used in the Abingdon area and if so how, where, by whom, with what authority, when, for what purposes and for how long do they retain the images/video collected.

2. Ask the local retail consortium and/or the largest local retailers and event spaces if they are using FRT in this constituency;

3. Ask Thames Valley Police Chief Constable, Jason Hogg, about the local police force’s deployment of FRT, or upcoming plans of deployment, in our local public spaces.

 Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Ray Corrigan

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Layla Moran MP on the Data Protection & Digital Information Bill

I've had a quick response from Layla Moran MP to my note expressing concerns about the Data Protection & Digital Information Bill, concerns, it seems she shares:

Dear Ray,

Thank you for taking the time to write to me about the Data Protection & Digital Information Bill.
There is much to be concerned about in this Bill. I spoke in the second reading debate earlier this year and raised my concerns about what this legislation will do to undermine data rights, concentrate power with the Secretary of State, further complicate our relationship with Europe, and set a worrying precedent for the future. You can read my contribution to the debate here.
I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues believe that the GDPR /Data Protection Act 2018 is not in need of fundamental reform. We do believe that parts of this Act could be made more clear, and better guidance provided. However, we fear the changes the Government is pursuing may actually increase the burden on business especially if they have to conform to both a separate UK and EU regime.
The retention of data adequacy for the purposes of digital trade with the EU is of the utmost priority in considering any changes.
Liberal Democrats are concerned about the implications of a “flexible, risk-based approach to adequacy decisions” which is not GDPR compliant and the impact this may have on international agreements as this may in turn impact data adequacy. There are already agreement discussion underway, such as those with Japan which also cause concern.
It is unclear what assessment the Government has made of the impact on data adequacy of the changes being made and of the consequences to UK business if we do not retain data adequacy.
Public trust in data use and sharing is a major issue. The Government must do more to educate the public about how and where our data is used and what powers individuals possess to find out this information. This is particularly true of health data and future contracts like the one proposed with Palantir.
Liberal Democrats are therefore supportive of enhanced powers for the Information Commissions Office (ICO) but believe that to be an effective body they must be provided with both the finance and staffing numbers to be able to carry out their job. We are concerned whether the creation of a new board will enable the ICO to maintain its current level of independence.
Thank you again for sharing your concerns with me – I will absolutely bear them in mind as I continue to take part in debates on this legislation in Parliament.

Best wishes,


Layla Moran
Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Oxford West & Abingdon