Sajid Javid (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images).


BRITISH home secretary Sajid Javid has backed the use of facial recognition cameras designed to help spot suspects in public cases.

The technology is being trialed by several police forces and Javid said it was important to be “on top of the latest technology.”

Speaking at the launch of new computer technology to fight online child abuse, Javid said: “I back the police in looking at technology and trialling it and… different types of facial recognition technology is being trialled especially by the Met at the moment and I think it’s right they look at that.”

He however noted that long term use of the cameras would require legislation.

“If they want to take it further it’s also right that they come to government, we look at it carefully and we set out through Parliament how that can work,” he said.

Facial recognition cameras are used to detect faces and compare them with mugshots of wanted suspects.

However, a recent report found the technology inaccurate 81 per cent of the time.

Objecting to the use of facial recognition technology, Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties and privacy campaigning organisation, said British police were setting “a dangerous example to countries around the world.”

“This is a turning point for civil liberties in the UK,” director Silkie Carlo was quoted as saying. “If police push ahead with facial recognition surveillance, members of the public could be tracked across Britain’s colossal CCTV networks.

“For a nation that opposed ID cards and rejected the national DNA database, the notion of live facial recognition turning citizens into walking ID cards is chilling.

“It would be disastrous for policing and the future of civil liberties and we urge police to drop it for good”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office added that the new technology was a potential threat to privacy.

“We understand the purpose is to catch criminals,’ Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham was quoted as saying. “But these trials also represent the widespread processing of biometric data of thousands of people as they go about their daily lives. And that is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all.”