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Kent Police approached by Home Office over using facial recognition technology to find missing people

Facial recognition technology could be used in Kent to help find missing and vulnerable people.

The county's police force has been approached by the Home Office over a potential trial to use CCTV cameras to scan the faces of members of the public.

These would then be matched against a database of photographs, with the aim of locating those who may be at risk.

CCTV camera
CCTV camera

However, both parties are keen to stress that the proposals are only at a discussion stage and, if rolled out, would be used retrospectively, rather than 'live'.

Furthermore, Kent Police says a public consultation would be held to gauge feedback before any such trial takes place.

Details of the plan first emerged in a letter from policing minister Nick Hurd to privacy campaigner James Mullarkey, who published the correspondence on his Twitter page.

Mr Hurd assured the critic that the government recognised the use of such technology "raises legitimate privacy concerns which should be debated in a democratic society".

He clarified that images of passers-by would initially be retained to build up a database but facial images that do not create a match would be deleted immediately and the CCTV feed removed from the system within 31 days.

Facial recognition has been a controversial topic in the past, with some police forces even facing court cases over their use of the technology.

The trial proposals come as Maidstone Borough Council considers stopping 24/7 monitoring of its CCTV cameras to save money while upgrading to high definition, Wi-fi-enabled technology.

KMTV asked shoppers in Medway if they would be happy facial recognition could be used to find crime suspects

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Smith of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "There are currently no plans to use ‘live’ facial recognition software at Kent Police however discussions around the use of facial recognition technology retrospectively, to assist in missing person investigations, has been discussed with the Home Office.

"At Kent Police legitimacy is at the heart of everything we do and before the start of any such trial, and in line with best practice, we would engage in public consultation."

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