David Davis criticises the police’s unregulated database of 14 million mug shots


As reported in the Daily Mail:
Police Files of 18m Mugshots Built on Quiet

Police are using a database of up to 18million mugshots to identify suspects despite no proper legal framework being in place.

Forces across England and Wales have begun setting up the huge library of images without telling the Home Office or watchdogs.

Many on the database would have been pictured on arrest but then not charged with any crime. However, their pictures remain on file indefinitely.

Police can search the photo library for suspects using facial recognition technology.

But biometrics commissioner Alastair MacGregor said last night he was concerned about the implications of hundreds of thousands’ of innocent people being in the system.

He told BBC Newsnight that he was also worried about the risk of dangerous’ false matches as there had not been enough rigorous testing of facial recognition systems.

Mr MacGregor was appointed as the Government’s first biometrics commissioner in March 2013 with the task of scrutinising official use of DNA and fingerprint profiles.

He said: My concern is not simply that important privacy and civil liberties issues have not been addressed.’

Although the technology could be tremendously useful’ in fighting crime, he was concerned at the public’s attitude.

Its value will be very significantly undermined if the public cannot have confidence in it and cannot feel there are proper controls,’ he warned.

Mr MacGregor said the High Court had told police in 2012 to put rules in place about the proper use of mugshots but they had not done so.

There is always a danger that if you can do something then you will do it, the technology takes over…without giving the attention to the other issues that arise,’ he said. Mr MacGregor was also concerned about the reliability of the technology as a false match could easily send an investigation off into the completely wrong direction’.

Chief Constable Mike Barton, the national police lead on facial recognition, said the database was playing a valuable role but admitted it had no legislative framework’.

Leicestershire Police said the facial recognition system it began using last year had proved invaluable. A spokesman said the force has 100,000 photos and the software was 100 per cent reliable if there were clear images.

But David Davis, former Tory shadow home secretary, said: ‘You cannot treat innocent people the same way you treat guilty people, you should not misuse the data in this way. No facial recognition software is 100 per cent reliable.’

Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office minister David Laws has demanded urgent action to regulate the use of the database, Newsnight reported.

The Home Office said it was reviewing the legal framework for the use of these images.