The UK government has decided to put out a tender for a US$6 million contract for facial recognition software, despite the fact thousands of pictures on their system may be of innocent people.
Police in the UK are already using facial recognition technology to identify potential criminals.
Now the UK Home Office is pushing ahead with a tender that will allow them to use facial recognition software worth US$5 million. The strategy and retention systems remain embroiled in controversy, as the system can hold pictures of thousands of innocent faces.
In March 2017, it was revealed that the UK police force was still using unregulated facial recognition as the Home Office failed to deliver upon its biometrics strategy.
The Home Office is unable to confirm when the promised Biometrics Strategy will be delivered.
"The Biometrics Strategy represents an important opportunity for the Home Office to set out how we will use biometrics to deliver our objectives over the next five years," a Home Office spokesperson said.
The Flaws and Problems
According to the tender announcement, a company "needs to provide a combination of biometric algorithm software and associated components that provide the specialized capability to match a biometric image to a known identity held as an encoded facial image."
The tender will run for 60 months and the main objective will be to integrate the Home Office's Biometric Matcher Platform Service into its centralized biometric Matching Engine Software (MES).
Out of the 48 regional and special police forces in the UK, seven of them use the Athena system which stores custody images. The remaining forces use a variety of different solutions and legacy IT systems. This means that introducing a universal or consistent policy can be very difficult.
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However, the decision to have a more universal system does not come without its problems. This solution would require the Home Office to retain millions of individual faces, an approach that was declared illegal by the High Court in 2012.
Both current and former biometric commissioners have published reports on the Home Office's approach to facial recognition and biometrics and have pointed to the flaws and problems.
In March 2016, in his annual report, Alastair MacGregor QC, warned that "hundreds of thousands" of facial images held by the police belong to "individuals who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, an offense."
Despite these concerns, police around the UK will continue to roll out facial recognition software.