CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Town Hall demands urgent talks with developer over ‘facial recognition’ tech use

'Any CCTV system should be accountable' says Town Hall

15 August, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Camden’s Town Hall in Pancras Square

THE Town Hall last night (Wednesday) demanded urgent talks with King’s Cross developer Argent over the use of controversial “facial recognition” technology on the 67-acre former Railwaylands estate.

Camden Council, whose staff are based in offices on the site, say they want to discuss the use of the face-identifying digital gizmo across its estate.

Blue-chip firms including Google and YouTube have headquarters there, as well as the arts university Central St Martins.

Community chief Labour councillor Danny Beales told the New Journal the council was unaware of the set-up where people’s faces are scanned using CCTV cameras and then matched to databases, adding: “We have written to Argent about their use of this technology, both as the democratic representative body for the borough of Camden and as an organisation headquartered on the site.

“Thousands of residents and visitors pass through the area every day, so any CCTV system and its use should be accountable, and also be seen to be accountable, to members of the public.

“The use of facial recognition is intrusive so, on behalf of our residents, we want to know what information is being gathered, and why.”

Cllr Beales welcomed an investigation by Whitehall’s Information Commissioner into its use at King’s Cross, adding: “It is now clear that a national debate is needed about the use of what is still experimental technology.

“There are genuine concerns about the use of facial technology. We’re seeking to meet with Argent to discuss these concerns.”

Facial recognition software has been criticised by civil liberties campaign groups. But an Argent spokesperson said: “In the interest of public safety and to ensure everyone who visits King’s Cross has the best possible experience, we use cameras around the site, as do many other developments and shopping centres, as well as transport nodes, sports clubs and other areas where large numbers of people gather.

“These cameras use a number of detection and tracking methods, including facial recognition, but also have sophisticated systems in place to protect the privacy of the general public.”

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