Sir, You Are Being Watched: UK Police Secretly Used Passport Database for Facial Recognition

Surveillance in UK

According to an investigative report, UK police have been utilising the national passport database since at least 2019, with the practice gaining momentum last year. Police interference in civilian databases has raised concerns among MPs and political activists. British police have been secretly using the national passport database to run facial recognition technology, according to an investigative report by the Telegraph. According to the article, over 46 million British passport holders were affected. In addition to the passport database, the police also used information from immigration services to monitor foreigners.UK University Puts Trigger Warning on Orwell’s Novel 1984 Over ‘Explicit Material’23 January 2022, 10:27 GMTThe media report revealed that British police have been using the passport database for facial recognition since at least 2019, with the trend intensifying last year. For example, in the first nine months of 2023, UK law enforcement agencies used the passport database more than 300 times.The media emphasises that the problem is not the facial recognition technology itself, but the fact that police are using passport database instead of their internal databases.WorldExpansion of UK Investigatory Law to Force Tech Companies Into ‘Surveillance State’3 January, 13:37 GMTThe revelation sparked concern among politicians and human rights activists, some of whom described the situation as “deeply concerning”, adding that “there is no clear legal basis for this intrusive technology”.David Davis, a Conservative MP, stressed that there was “no explicit legislative basis” for such a practice and claimed that the use of Britons’ passports “undermines the data relationship between the citizen and the state”.Moreover, “opening up civil databases to mass police searches turns everyone a priori into a suspect,” another campaigner warned. He added that “more surveillance and snooping powers will not make people safer”.


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