Metropolitan Police fines man £90 after refusing to be scanned by facial recognition cameras

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Plain-clothed police officers objected to being told to 'piss off' by man protesting East London facial recognition trial

A man has been fined £90 by the Metropolitan Police after he refused to be scanned by controversial facial recognition cameras. 

The eyewitnesses revealed that the man had seen placards warning people that they were being scanned by the cameras installed in a police van in Romford during a trial of the technology in East London.

Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo, who was monitoring the technology trial, said that the police had no reasonable grounds for suspicion and added that he just "pulled up the top of his jumper over the bottom of his face, put his head down and walked past". 

She continued: "You have the right to avoid [the cameras], you have the right to cover your face. I think he was exercising his rights," Carlo said.

However, before the man could walk past the site, he was stopped by a plain-clothed police officer and pulled over to one side by some other officers. They asked the man to show a form of identification, which he did, and then told the officer to "piss off". 

He was later fined £90 by the Met officers under the controversial Public Order Act 1986.

According to witnesses, police stopped several other people also for covering their faces or pulling up hoods. This all happened despite the police having already put out a statement informing public that "anyone who declines to be scanned will not necessarily be viewed as suspicious".

This is not the first time that facial recognition cameras have been tested in the UK. The technology has already been trialled in different parts of central London, including Soho, Leicester Square, and Piccadilly Circus in 2018, as well as at the Notting Hill Carnival in 2017.

In December 2018, the Met reportedly arrested two individuals after the system identified them as suspects in connection with violent crimes. 

Police in South Wales have also frequently rolled-out facial recognition, particularly for major events

Detective Chief Superintendent Ivan Balhatchet, strategic lead for live facial recognition, has said that the Met is determined to use new technologies available to tackle violent crime and to support standard policing activity in London.

However, critics oppose use of facial recognition technology in public places, stating that it is an invasion of people's privacy. According to critics, the technology is largely ineffective, especially in identifying women and darker-skinned people.

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