Facial Recognition (FR) technology can be used in a number of ways by the Met, including to prevent and detect crime, find wanted criminals, safeguard vulnerable people, and to protect people from harm – all to keep the people we serve safe.
Whilst the Met’s documents you can find linked from this page give you a lot more detail about the terms we use as well as how and where FR is used by the Met. The typical uses of FR technology for policing are:
as a real-time aid to help officers to help them locate people on a ‘watchlist’ who are sought by the police;
as an operator initiated tool for officers who decide they need to take an image of a person and then use Facial Recognition software to help them establish who that person is. This helps the police even if that person provides false or misleading details. This use of FR can also help provide an identification of someone who is unconscious or seriously injured and unable to communicate who they are;
as a retrospective system to be used after an event to help officers establish who a person is or whether their image matches against other media held on databases.
Live Facial Recognition
LFR cameras are focused on a specific area; when people pass through that area their images are streamed directly to the Live Facial Recognition system.
This system contains a watchlist: a list of offenders wanted by the police and/or the courts, or those who pose a risk of harm to themselves or others. Further details of who can be on a watchlist and how the Met carefully decides where to use LFR can be found in our Standard Operating Procedures for LFR.
LFR is not a ubiquitous tool that uses lots of CCTV cameras from across London to track every person’s movements. It is a carefully deployed overt policing tactic to help locate a limited number of people the police need to find in order to keep London safe.
We want to make sure that what we do conforms to the law and also takes into account ethical concerns and respects everyone’s human rights. These documents detail how we're doing that:
The PDF(s) on this page may not be suitable for users of assistive technology. We are in the process of updating them, but please email us to request an accessible version. See our accessibility statement.
The Met is updating the technology we will use for Retrospective Facial Recognition. We are currently working to integrate the updated capability and develop a suite of documents to ensure we have the right controls and safeguards in place to use the technology. We are in touch with the London Policing Ethics Panel and engaging with key stakeholders in this process to ensure our use is lawful, ethical and informed. Prior to operational use, we will publish documents that set out how the technology will be used.
Operator Initiated Facial Recognition
The Met keeps its need to use Facial Recognition technologies under review but does not presently use Operator Initiated Facial Recognition. Further details about Operator Initiated Facial Recognition can be found in the Met’s Live Facial Recognition Policy document where we set out the different types of Facial Recognition technology and how we refer to them.