- Officers who find match can obtain details and intelligence held about suspect
Police chiefs are planning to roll out technology that enables officers to take photos of suspects on their mobile phones and then search for a match – within seconds – among millions of criminals stored on their database.
The controversial app, known as Operator Initiated Facial Recognition (OIFR), has already been trialled by three police forces using software called iPatrol.
Last night the National Police Chiefs’ Council said it wanted to deploy the technology nationally by next year.
However, trials by South Wales, Gwent and Cheshire police forces have proved controversial, as the app has been used to identify dead bodies.
Big Brother Watch, a privacy organisation has called the software ‘Orwellian’, and its use to identify dead bodies as ‘creepy’.
Jeremy Vaughan, the South Wales Police Chief Constable, who is the national lead on facial recognition, hailed the technology.
The controversial app, known as Operator Initiated Facial Recognition (OIFR), has already been trialled by three police forces using software called iPatrol
He said: ‘It can cut the amount of time spent trying to identify an offender from days and months to just minutes.
‘But we recognise the need to balance the use of new technology with the right to privacy.’
South Wales and Gwent police forces jointly trialled the OIFR software for three months.
Officers who find a match can then obtain all personal details and intelligence held about the suspect in the Police National Computer database.
This includes whether they are wanted for any other crimes, or if they are a violent offender.
The facial recognition app was deployed by officers at least 42 times by South Wales Police, which led to 20 arrests.
The app failed to find a match on 16 occasions, four searches were abandoned and two others marked incomplete.
The app led to police identifying one missing person and two dead bodies.
The South Wales data also showed that ethnic minorities were disproportionately targeted in the use of the app – nearly 31 per cent photographed were either black or Asian when the ethnic minority population of South Wales is only 8.5 per cent.
A spokeswoman for Big Brother Watch said: ‘Operator-initiated facial recognition puts Orwellian surveillance technology in the pockets of police officers.’