Andrew Sharland QC and Stephen Kosmin appear in successful appeal against the use of Automated Facial Recognition technology by South Wales Police


Andrew Sharland QC and Stephen Kosmin appeared for the Surveillance Camera Commissioner in R (Bridges) v Cheief Constable of South Wales Police [2020] EWCA Civ 1058.  The appeal concerned the lawfulness of the use of automated facial recognition technology by South Wales Police.  The technology worked by extracting faces captured in a live feed from a camera and automatically comparing them to faces on a watchlist.

The Court of Appeal (Sir Terence Etherton MR, Dame Victoria Sharp PQBD, and Lord Justice Singh) allowed the appeal on three grounds.

The Court of Appeal held that the basis that the use of the technology was not “in accordance with the law” for the purposes of Article 8(1) ECHR. The Court of Appeal determined that there was no clear guidance on where AFR Locate could be used and who could be put on a watchlist such that too broad a discretion was afforded to the police officers to meet the standard required by Article 8(2).

The Court of Appeal also held that both the data protection impact assessment of South Wales Police was not adequate for the purposes of section 64 of the Data Protection Act 2018, and that South Wales Police had breached its public sector equality by not taking reasonable steps to make enquiries about whether the technology had bias on racial or sex grounds.

The case is the first case globally in which an appellate court has considered the legality of automated facial recognition technology.

The judgment can be read here.