R (Bridges) v South Wales Police: Live Facial Recognition case in the Court of Appeal


The Court of Appeal will today begin hearing an appeal challenging police use of live Automated Facial Recognition (AFR) technology in public spaces. AFR technology enables the police to scan the faces of anyone passing by cameras and, in principle, to identify anyone whose photograph is on a connected database.  The Divisional Court accepted that the use of AFR of engages privacy and data protection rights of everyone whose faces are scanned but it dismissed the claim on all grounds. In an appeal which has profound implications for the way that society is policed, it will be argued that the use of live AFR is not in accordance with the law because it is not subject to proper regulation and safeguards, and that its use by South Wales Police (SWP) on two occasions when the Appellant was present was disproportionate. The Appellant also contends that SWP’s use of AFR is incompatible with data protection law, and that SWP is in breach of the Public Sector Equality Duty as it failed to have due regard to the potential indirect discrimination arising from higher rates of false positive matches in relation to people of colour and women. This is thought to be the first case in the world concerning the use of AFR by police. The Appeal will be heard over three days by the Master of the Rolls, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Lord Justice Singh.  

Dan Squires QC and Aidan Wills are acting for the Appellant, Ed Bridges, instructed by Megan Goulding at Liberty.