Sadiq Khan writes to King’s Cross developer on facial recognition

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (Photo by SAV/Getty Images)
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (Photo by SAV/Getty Images)

A DAY after it was revealed that UK’s privacy regulator was looking into the use of controversial facial recognition technology by property companies, London mayor Sadiq Khan wrote to the owner of the King’s Cross development requesting more information on how this technology was being used.

Sadiq Khan, in his letter to Robert Evans, the chief executive of the King’s Cross development, has also asked for “reassurance that you have been liaising with government ministers and the Information Commissioner’s Office to ensure its use is fully compliant with the law as it stands”.

The London mayor has also called for new laws to clarify how facial recognition technology can be used.

The property development company on Monday (12) admitted to using the technology “in the interests of public safety and to ensure that everyone who visits has the best possible experience”.

Although it did not provide details of how the software was being used, the company said in a statement cited by the media that they used a “number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition” across the development.

There were also “sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public”, a spokesperson for King’s Cross added.

Cameras using facial recognition technology are used by the police to scan faces in large crowds and public places. Images are then compared to a database of suspects.

However, recent research has shown racial disparities in the accuracy of facial recognition technology. A 2018 study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology revealed that the software more often misidentifies darker-skinned people. The software had an error rate of 34.7 per cent for darker-skinned women, compared with 0.8 per cent for lighter-skinned men, the study showed.

Meanwhile, Camden council, the authority in which King’s Cross falls, said the use of facial recognition software had to be seen to be accountable.

“The public will want to be reassured that they are not being monitored inappropriately – as do we,” a spokesperson for the authority was quoted as saying.