Face-scanning CCTV approved for London hot-spots despite privacy storm

Surveillance cameras equipped with face detection technology have been approved for some of London’s premier cultural and shopping destinations, the Evening Standard has learned.
The Barbican Arts Complex, Liberty department store and the Hay’s Galleria Mall near London Bridge are among the sites that have won planning consent to install state-of-the-art CCTV systems. It has led to calls for firms to be more “upfront” about telling people how their data is used and stored.

Details of the new equipment emerged after a privacy row last month over the facial recognition software being used at the 67-acre King’s Cross development “in the interest of public safety.” Planning documents seen by the Standard reveal that a number of other high-profile sites have been given permission for similar technology following its deployment by King’s Cross developer Argent. At the Barbican’s theatre, cinema and arts complex surveillance is being boosted with 65 high-definition cameras, making a total of 159 all-seeing lenses across the estate.

Public documents reveal that 16 of these have the capability to provide “recognition” scanning of people or places. Features include two-way audio, potentially allowing controllers to listen in, and the ability to pinpoint potential suspects in crowds.
The internet-connected equipment was approved last month by the City of London Corporation. The surveillance upgrade was applied for at the same time as a wider City police security review — which reportedly could include “widespread integration” with private CCTV networks.

Westminster council has approved plans by Soho store Liberty to use artificial intelligence-powered CCTV. Planning documents reveal the cameras appear similar to the Avigilon H4 model seen at King’s Cross. The system has “self-learning video analytics” that can be hooked up to “appearance search” face detection software. A Liberty spokesman said there were “no plans” to use the function.