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Mayor of London quizzes King’s Cross over facial recognition roll-out

The property developers who secretly rolled out facial recognition software across a 67-acre site in London’s King’s Cross are facing mounting pressure to disclose how they are using the technology.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has written to the chief executive of King’s Cross Development to seek clarity on the deployment, amid a mounting backlash from local residents and workers.

“You will be aware that there are serious and widespread concerns about the legal framework for the use of this technology […],” said Khan in a letter shared with NS Tech.

“I am writing to request more information about exactly how this technology is being used […] and reassurance that you have been liaising with Government ministers and the Information Commissioner’s office to ensure its use is fully compliant.”

The data protection watchdog confirm earlier this week that it was investigating how the technology had been deployed by businesses. Privacy experts have warned that while the public and private sector are increasingly turning to the technology, there is a regulatory vacuum surrounding its application.

An independent report published in July revealed that more than eight out of ten “suspects” flagged by the Metropolitan police’s facial recognition software were innocent. Previous studies have indicated that the technology is more likely to misidentify people of colour, increasing the risk of minority groups being unfairly targeted.

After the Financial Times reported the King’s Cross rollout earlier this week, it remains unclear how the technology has been used and whether the developers have a database to cross-reference live images against.

A spokesperson for King’s Cross development 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.”