BRITISH tolerance of surveillance is tested. 'Facial recognition software draws scrutiny in country used to being watched.

A few hours before a recent Wales-Ireland rugby match in Cardiff, amid throngs of fans dressed in team colors of red and green and sidewalk merchants selling scarves and flags, police officers popped out of a white van.

The officers stopped a man carrying a large Starbucks coffee, asked him a series of questions and then arrested him. A camera attached to the van had captured his image, and facial recognition technology used by the city had identified him someone wanted on suspicion of assault.

The presence of the cameras, and the local police's use of the software, is at the center of a debate in Britain testing the country's longstanding acceptance of surveillance.

Britain has traditionally sacrificed privacy more than other Western democracies, mostly in the name of security.

The government's use of thousands of closed-circuit cameras and its ability to monitor digital communications have been influenced by domestic bombings during years of conflict involving  Northern Ireland and terrorist strikes since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

But now, a new generation of cameras is beginning to be used. Like the one perched on the top of the Cardiff police van, these cameras feed into facial recognition software, enabling  real-time identity checks, raising new concerns among public officials, civil society groups and citizens.

Some members of the Parliament have called for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition software.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said there was ''serious and widespread'' concern about the technology. Britain's top privacy regulator, Elizabeth Denham, is investigating its use by the police and private businesses.

And this month, in a case that has been closely watched because there is little legal precedent in the country on the use of facial recognition, a British High Court ruled against a man from Cardiff, the capital of Wales, who sued to end the use of facial recognition by the South Wales Police.

The man, Ed Bridges, said the police had violated his privacy and human rights by scanning his face without consent on at least two occasions - once when he was shopping and again when he attended a political rally. He has vowed to appeal the decision.

''Technology is driving forward, and legislation and regulation follows ever so slowly behind,'' said Tony Porter, Britain's Surveillance Camera Commissioner, who oversees compliance with the surveillance camera code of practice.

''It would wrong for me to suggest the balance is right.''

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Law and Privacy, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Adam Satariano.


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