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F1 fans subjected to facial recognition during British Grand Prix

In order to prevent criminal activity, the Northamptonshire police will use facial recognition technology during the British Grand Prix.

Approximately 480,000 fanatical Formula 1 fans are expected to visit the Silverstone racing circuit between July 4 – 7. To make sure things will go without incident, the Northamptonshire police are using facial recognition.

The technology will scan faces and compare the biometrics against people registered on a watch list. If there’s a match the person in question will not be allowed to attend the event.

The police will display signs and QR codes to indicate where facial recognition will be used.

According to detective superintendent Richard Tompkins, facial recognition is crucial to guarantee a safe and joyful F1 race. “Each year throws up its own challenges so we can never afford to become complacent,” he says in an interview with the BBC.

“If you are wanted in Northamptonshire, in surrounding counties, or indeed if we have information that you may be coming to commit crime as part of an organised gang, we will load your image up,” he adds.

Facial recognition controversy in the UK

It isn’t the first time the Northamptonshire police turned to facial recognition to ensure the safety of Silverstone visitors. They did the same in 2023. And the use of facial recognition technology during the event is accompanied by a lot of controversy.

Liberty, UK’s largest civil liberty organization, argues that facial recognition should not be used by police forces. “The expansion of mass surveillance tools has no place on the streets of a rights respecting democracy,” campaign manager Emmanuelle Andrews said on the matter. He thinks the technology will “always be used disproportionately against communities of colour”.

Back in 2020, a UK judge ruled that the use of automatic facial recognition by South Wales police was unlawful, because it was deemed to be an intrusive and discriminatory mass surveillance tool.

Silverstone has been around since 1950 and is the oldest racing circuit in all of Formula 1 history. The first practice run is on July 5, followed by the qualifying race the next day. The Grand Prix starts at 3 p.m. on July 7.

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