Police Facial Recognition Surveillance and the Right to Privacy

Facial recognition technology (FRT) is fast becoming the tool of choice for law enforcement agencies looking to police public space. Over the last year, in England and Wales, FRT has been used at a number of crowded events to identify suspects and prevent crime. This technology is more intrusive than ordinary CCTV surveillance as it can identify individuals in real space and link them to other information stored on police databases. This paper argues that the legal framework in England and Wales is ill equipped to recognise, and afford adequate protection to, the privacy rights of those subject to police FRT surveillance in public space. Drawing on philosophical literature and relevant European human rights jurisprudence, a new approach to privacy in public space is proposed, which moves beyond the “reasonable expectation of privacy” standard to focus on a more holistic inquiry of how privacy interests are engaged in this context.