Concerns over human rights law compliance
Dr Murray said: “This report raises significant concerns regarding the human rights law compliance of the trials.
“The legal basis for the trials was unclear and is unlikely to satisfy the ‘in accordance with the law’ test established by human rights law.
“It does not appear that an effective effort was made to identify human rights harms or to establish the necessity of LFR.
“Ultimately, the impression is that human rights compliance was not built into the Metropolitan Police’s systems from the outset, and was not an integral part of the process.”
In order to compile the report, Professor Fussey and Dr Murray were granted unprecedented access to the final six of the ten trials run by the Metropolitan Police, running from June 2018 to February 2019. They joined officers on location in the LFR control rooms and engaged with officers responding on the ground. They also attended briefing and de-briefing sessions, and planning meetings.
Key issues to address
The main concerns raised in the report are:
- It is highly possible that police deployment of LFR technology may be held unlawful if challenged before the courts. This is because there is no explicit legal authorisation for the use of LFR in domestic law, and the researchers argue that the implicit legal authorisation claimed by the Metropolitan Police - coupled with the absence of publicly available, clear online guidance – is unlikely to satisfy the ‘in accordance with the law’ requirement established by human rights law, if challenged in court.
- There was insufficient pre-test planning and conceptualisation and the Metropolitan Police’s trial methodology focused primarily on the technical aspects of the trials. This meant the research process adopted by the Metropolitan Police gave insufficient attention to addressing the non-technical objectives identified.
- The Metropolitan Police did not appear to engage effectively with the ‘necessary in a democratic society’ test established by human rights law. LFR was approached in a manner similar to traditional CCTV. This fails to take into account factors such as the intrusive nature of LFR, and the use of biometric processing. As a result, a sufficiently detailed impact assessment was not conducted, making it difficult to engage with the necessity test.
- The mixing of trials with operational deployments raises a number of issues regarding consent, public legitimacy and trust – particularly when considering differences between an individual’s consent to participate in research and their consent to the use of technology for police operations. For example, from the perspective of research ethics, someone avoiding the cameras is an indication that they are exercising their entitlement not to be part of a particular trial. From a policing perspective, this same behaviour may acquire a different meaning and serve as an indicator of suspicion.
- There were numerous operational failures including: inconsistencies in the process of officers verifying a match made by the technology; a presumption to intervene; how the Metropolitan Police engaged with individuals; and difficulties in defining and obtaining consent of those affected.
Further issues highlighted include:
- Across the six trials that were evaluated, the LFR technology made 42 matches – in only eight of those matches can the report authors say with absolute confidence the technology got it right.
- Criteria for including people on the ‘watchlist’ were not clearly defined, and there was significant ambiguity over the categories of people the LFR trials intended to identify.
- There were issues with the accuracy of the ‘watchlist’ and information was often not current. This meant, for example, that people were stopped despite the fact their case had already been addressed.
- The research methodology document prepared by the Metropolitan Police focuses primarily on the technical aspects of the trials. There does not appear to be a clearly defined research plan that sets out how the test deployments are intended to satisfy the non-technical objectives, such as those relating to the use of LFR as a policing tool. This complicated the trial process and its purpose.
Professor Fussey is a leading criminologist specialising in surveillance and society, based in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex. He is currently leading the new human rights, data and technology strand of the National Surveillance Camera Strategy.
Dr Murray is a specialist in international human rights law, with a focus on conflict, counter-terrorism, and the application of modern technology. He is based in the School of Law at Essex.
Both are members of the Human Rights, Big Data & Technology Project, based at the Human Rights Centre at Essex and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Read the report
The full report can be found on the Human Rights, Big Technology and Technology project website.