The introduction of the £90million Japanese technology, which scans faces in a crowd against photos on a police watch list, has already led to dozens of arrests
The futuristic software was tested in London, Manchester, Leicestershire and Wales after the Home Office set aside money for trials.
“Facial recognition software could also help find people who are missing in seconds.
“It could also help locate kidnapped children or people with dementia who are lost and wandering the streets.And you can expect that criminals won’t be safe where cameras linked to the system are situated.”
But civil liberties campaigners warn it could usher in a terrifying Big Brother era where we are constantly monitored — and where machines will decide our fate.
Liberty campaign lawyer Megan Goulding says the group is involved in a lawsuit against South Wales Police over its “disproportionate” use of the cameras.
The group has concerns the technology could be paired with millions of CCTV cameras so “ordinary people are being monitored all the time”.
Megan said: “The infringement to our human rights this technology creates is just too great for it to be used.
The cameras violate the privacy of everyone who crosses them because it takes their biometric information without them even knowing about it. Already this technology is having a chilling effect on our freedom as it has been used to monitor people who are protesting and people have been stopped by the police on the order of a computer.”
The NEC facial recognition software scans a face and makes a unique “biometric map”, which includes key identifiers such as mouth width and distance between the eyes.
A computer then runs this data against a police image database to determine whether there is a match.
South Wales Police used £2million of Home Office funding for two NEC systems.
The NeoFace Reveal allows officers to upload images to check against a database of suspects or watch list of missing people.
The second, NeoFace Watch, uses a camera mounted on a van. If a missing person or suspect passes the camera, it can match them against the database and alert officers. In 2015 police in Leicester trialled the face scanner by searching for criminals at the Download Festival.
The Met Police used the NeoFace Watch system to monitor the Notting Hill Carnival in 2016 and 2017 and to look for criminals operating in Stratford, East London, this summer.