Automatic Face Recognition in the UK: Policy and Practice

CRISP CPDP 2020 Conference Panel
Wednesday, January 22, 2020 - 09:00 - Friday, January 24, 2020 - 17:00

CRISP facilitated a panel at the annual CPDP (Computers, Privacy and Data Protection) Conference in Brussels in January, on the topic of automatic face recognition surveillance cameras in the UK. A full recording of the panel is available on YouTube here.

Panel theme:

The UK is often heralded as a world leader in the use of public space surveillance camera systems and over the last year this has included the deployment of AFR (Automatic Face Recognition) software, with the explicit intention of identifying persons of interest. The use of AFR has raised a number of technical, practical and governance issues, including the reliability of the matching process, the availability of a suitable database of facial images and concern about inbuilt racial bias and human rights. The use of AFR in the UK has proved to be very contentious, resulting in a judicial review of its use and the publication of reports by a number of interested stakeholders, some of whom are represented on this panel. The future of AFR in the UK is hotly contested with differing views about whether the technology should be used, whether it should be banned outright, more tightly governed or only used in certain predetermined circumstances. This panel will review the lessons learned from the UK and assess the likely patterns of future use. It will draw on academic, practitioner and regulatory perspectives, and will examine the key policy and governance issues associated with the use of AFR technology.

Key questions:

  • What is the UK experience of using AFR in public space surveillance camera systems?
  • How effective is AFR technology?
  • What are the practical and policy issues emerging around the use of AFR technology?
  • How should AFR technology be governed and regulated?


Chair/Moderator: Professor William Webster, University of Stirling, CRISP (UK)


  • Tony Porter, Surveillance Camera Commissioner (UK)
  • David Reichel, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU)
  • Steven Wright, Information Commissioners Office (UK)
  • Hannah Couchman, Liberty (UK)
  • Eduardo Ustaran, Hogan Lovells (UK)

A full recording of the panel is available on YouTube here.

Further information about the CPDP conference can be found here.

Main contact person for this panel: Professor William Webster, Stirling Management School (