New police face recognition cameras have been branded a failure after spotting no suspects in hours of surveillance.
The UK’s biggest force was accused of wasting taxpayer cash after the devices failed to find a single match despite scanning 4,600 shoppers in an east London mall.
The Scotland Yard cameras record the faces of passers-by and send an alert to an officer’s phone if they look like those on a ‘most wanted’ list.
Human rights groups say they lead to ‘false positives’ which can mean innocent members of the public being stopped, searched and even arrested.
The cameras failed to find a single match despite scanning 4,600 shoppers while turned on for five and a half hours at the Stratford Centre in east London earlier this month (stock picture)
Now it has emerged that the first time the cameras were put to use, at Stratford Centre on February 11, no alerts were sent out.
This is despite the fact the devices were switched on for five and a half hours and given a list of 5,816 suspects likely to be in the area at that time.
Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, told the Times: ‘It’s a complete and utter failure. It’s not tough on crime, it’s tough on taxpayers’ money, and at the same time, there is a serious erosion of civil liberties.
‘It is an enormous amount of money spent on this complete and utter waste of time. At Stratford, there were about 30 officers standing around looking at their devices for alerts, and they never came.
‘There is a serious crime problem in London, and yet money is being wasted instead of targeted towards it. There’s no public consent for this, and there’s been no parliamentary consent. It urgently needs to be stopped.’
Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said the cameras were: ‘A complete and utter failure. It’s not tough on crime, it’s tough on taxpayers’ money, and at the same time, there is a serious erosion of civil liberties’ (pictured signs about the cameras opposite the centre)
Hannah Couchman, of campaign group Liberty, said: ‘The Metropolitan Police might not have made any arrests but it did scan the faces of thousands of people – taking their data without their knowledge or consent.
‘This isn’t a crime fighting tool – it’s a mass surveillance device normalising the tracking and monitoring of our everyday lives.’
The Met said the cameras lead to a false alert only once in every 1,000 cases. Research by the University of Essex last year found they made only eight correct matches out of 42 alerts, across six trials.
A spokesman for London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘New technology has a role in keeping Londoners safe, but it’s equally important the Met are proportionate in the way it is deployed and are transparent about where and when it is used.’
He added that the use of face recognition technology would continue to be monitored.