Haringey says no to facial recognition surveillance

Councillors have voted to tell the Government, Met and Mayor of London to keep live facial recognition out of Haringey.

At a Full Council meeting held virtually on Monday, 13th July, councillors debated a motion expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Cllrs Julia Ogiehor (LD – Muswell Hill) and Sakina Chenot (LD – Fortis Green) not only spoke in support of this but moved an amendment to add additional concrete actions to it. This included calling on the Met to eschew “any tactics which have a discriminatory impact” and “ensure that live facial recognition technology is not deployed in the borough”.

This surveillance technology which involves scanning the faces of members of the public without their permission and matching it to a database of suspects has proved controversial. A report by the Human Rights, Big Data & Technology Project at Essex University found that during a trial of a facial recognition system by the Metropolitan Police conducted between June 2018 and February 2019 81% of those flagged as suspects were wrongly identified. Whilst Liberty has argued it is “a dangerously intrusive and discriminatory technology that destroys our privacy rights and forces people to change their behaviour. It has no place on the streets of a free, rights-respecting democracy.”

In her speech seconding the amendment, Cllr Chenot raised similar concerns that facial recognition surveillance “strips away privacy from everyone, and there is no evidence that it can reliably identify anyone. It should not be used on any face of any race.

“However, there are particular concerns about its accuracy when applied to non-white people. The Met’s own internal testing found demographic biases. Which is not surprising because these systems are created in Silicon Valley by mostly white developers working from databases of mostly white faces.”

Whilst the increase in mask wearing in response to Covid-19 seems to have slowed the Met’s roll-out of this surveillance technology, Cllr Ogiehor warns that it remains a threat to community relations in London:

“After George Floyd’s murder the Met promised that they would ‘tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it.’ Well, it is in the software they are proposing to conduct mass surveillance with. Pushing ahead with this invasion of privacy would unquestionably undermine trust in the police, especially amongst black and minority ethnic Londoners”.

Silkie Carlo, director of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, which has long campaigned against live facial recognition said:

"This is an excellent move by a major London council to push back against live facial recognition and protect citizens' rights. The police's adoption of this extreme surveillance technology has been undemocratic, lawless and risks perpetuating discrimination in British policing. This motion will set a precedent for other councils to push back too and is a fantastic example of local democracy in action."

Video of the meeting can be viewed at: https://tinyurl.com/y867xvdv
(Sections added by Cllrs Ogiehor and Chenot’s amendment is underlined)

Black Lives Matter and the impact of Covid-19 on BAME Communities

Proposer: Cllr Adam Jogee
Seconder: Cllr Eldridge Culverwell


Haringey is one of the most diverse boroughs in London, with a long and proud tradition of celebrating our diversity and welcoming people from all backgrounds and communities to live, learn and work here. 

The brutal, and unlawful, death of George Floyd in the United States of America has justifiably triggered global protests against institutional racism faced by Black people right across the world, including here in the United Kingdom. 

These protests have come, alongside all the inequalities faced by Black people, in the wake of the devastatingly disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities in Britain and other parts of the world. 

It is clear that this impact has been made far worse by the structural inequalities Black people face when it comes to health, education and housing amongst the numerous obstacles that Black people encounter daily.

There has also been a sizable recognition that road names, buildings and other municipal institutions linked to, and named after former slave traders and colonialists, demand a re-think and potential re-naming, so as to give the Black community the rightful respect and recognition they deserve. 

The Council believes:   

That Black Lives Matter.

That George Floyd’s brutal murder must be a catalyst for change across the world.

That no country, city, police service or institution can absolve itself of the responsibility to do better.
That there is no place for racism, anti-Semitism, islamophobia or any form of xenophobia or bigotry anywhere in our society.

That language is a powerful tool for inspiration and change, as well as oppression and ignorance and must be used wisely and respectfully.

That the London Borough of Haringey must show leadership in the campaign to rid our city and our world, of bigotry and racism. 

That it is necessary for our national and civic leaders to start an open and respectful conversation about who we are and what we stand for as a community.

That the national conversation on institutional racism and immigration should be conducted with care for the dignity of people who are vulnerable, who do not have a voice in the public domain, and have to suffer the consequences of inaccurate, insulting and inflammatory language.

That our education system is a key determinant of the nature of our society, therefore real action must be taken within it to combat racial injustices and disadvantages.

That it is vital all efforts are taken to understand the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities in the London Borough of Haringey and that we should work with all relevant stakeholders to mitigate the impact now and into the future.

That it is concerning that whilst 53% of Haringey Council’s workforce is from a BaME background, just 32% of officers at Grades PO8 and above are. 

That we must stand together as one.

The Council resolves:

That all Councillors stand with Black residents in asserting their fundamental right to raise significant issues concerning their community. 

That the values and beliefs outlined in this motion should guide the Council’s interactions and tackling of racism and bigotry. 

That our work, as elected representatives, must be to play a substantive and public role in ensuring racism and discrimination are challenged and eradicated at all levels.

That we will seek the views of BAME communities across the London Borough of Haringey on the issues arising from the Black Lives Matter protests.

That we will read and understand the Public Health England report on the effect of Covid-19 on Black and Minority Ethnic Communities.

That we will address the structural inequality identified in the Public Health England report in its planning for the Borough’s recovery. 

To carry out a comprehensive risk assessment of the working conditions of all our BAME staff both working at home, in Council offices and across the community.

To ask the Cabinet to explore providing further support, training, and mentoring to the Council’s BaME staff to help them rise to senior positions.

That the values and beliefs outlined above should guide the Council’s interactions, discussions and work on these issues. 

That the Corporate Plan is updated to reflect the values outlined in this motion.

That we will call on the Metropolitan Police Service to rise to the challenge of recognising the inherent dignity of all Londoners and eschewing any tactics which have a discriminatory impact. To further this, Councils asks the Cabinet Member for Communities and Equalities to write a joint letter with their Liberal Democrat Shadow to the Home Secretary, the Mayor of London and the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to ensure that  live facial recognition technology is not deployed in the borough and ask for a full, independent review into the use of tasers and stop and search powers with a focus on:

  • Ethnic disproportionality in the use of stop and search
  • The impact of the use of stop and search on children and their families
  • Stop and Search’s usefulness as a tool for preventing violent crime including serious youth violence
  • The impact of stop and search on relations between communities, the Police and other state agencies.

That the Council endorses the Diversity Reform Initiative and asks the Cabinet Member for Children and Families to write a joint letter with their Liberal Democrat Shadow to the Cabinet Member for Education to express our support.

Finally, that provision will be made for Councillors’ to debate the achievements and successes of Haringey’s Black Community at the next available full meeting of all members.

Share this post on social media:

Sign in with Facebook, Twitter or Email.