King’s Cross said it has ‘sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public’
King’s Cross said it has ‘sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public’ © FT montage

The UK’s data protection regulator has launched an investigation into the use of facial recognition technology in the King's Cross area of London, after the FT reported on Monday that property developer Argent has deployed the software across its 67-acre estate.

“We have launched an investigation following concerns reported in the media regarding the use of live facial recognition in the King’s Cross area of central London, which thousands of people pass through every day,” said Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s information commissioner.

“As well as requiring detailed information from the relevant organisations about how the technology is used, we will also inspect the system and its operation on-site to assess whether or not it complies with data protection law.”

She added that facial recognition technology was a priority area for the Information Commissioner’s Office, and that she was deeply concerned about its use in public spaces by the private sector. “My office and the judiciary are both independently considering the legal issues and whether the current framework has kept pace with emerging technologies and people’s expectations about how their most sensitive personal data are used,” she said.

A spokesperson for Argent did not provide any further details about the number of cameras used, or what legal basis it had used to roll out this technology. Camden Council, within which King's Cross sits, said it was not aware of the use of facial recognition in the area, although Argent said it was GDPR-compliant.

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives, in order to identify them, is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all. That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding,” Ms Denham said.

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