Automated Facial Recognition in Law Enforcement: The Queen (On Application of Edward Bridges) v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police

  • Barrie Gordon University of South Africa
Keywords: Automated facial recognition, facial biometrics, Bridges, human rights violations, law enforcement, biometric data, Protection of Personal Information Act, privacy, POPI, data retention


The use of automated facial recognition in law enforcement is still a novel practice and as a result the legislative framework for this technology is ill-defined. The judgement of The Queen (on application of Edward Bridges) v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police [2020] EWCA Civ 1058 is the first case in the world that examines pertinent legal questions pertaining to this new technology. Automatic facial recognition may be used in law enforcement, but to prevent massive human rights violations, operators should perform their duties within a well-defined legal framework where discretion is kept to the minimum, and strict data-retention policies are followed. Furthermore, human oversight should always be part of an automated facial recognition system to ensure accuracy, fairness, and compliance with the law.



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Case law
Edward Bridges v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police [2019] EWHC 2341 (Admin)
PG and JH v United Kingdom [2001] ECHR 546 (25 September 2001)
R (Brown) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2008] EWHC 3158 (Admin); [2009] PTSR 1506
R (Hurley & Moore) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2012] EWHC 201 (Admin); [2012] HRLR 13
R (S) v Chief Constable of the South Yorkshire Police [2004] 1 WLR 2196
R (Wood) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis [2010] 1 WLR 123
S and Marper v United Kingdom [2009] 48 EHRR 50
The Queen (on application of Edward Bridges) v The Chief Constable of South Wales Police [2020] EWCA Civ 1058

Road Transport Legislation Amendment Act, 2015
South Africa
Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992
Tax Administration Act 28 of 2011
Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000
Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013
United Kingdom
Data Protection Act 29 of 1998
Data Protection Act 12 of 2018
Equality Act 15 of 2010
Police Act 16 of 1996
Protection of Freedoms Act 9 of 2012

International instruments
European Convention on Human Rights (1950)

Internet sources

Davies B, Dawson A and Innes M 2020 How Facial Recognition Technology Aids Police accessed 31 August 2020

TechCentral 2020 Vumacam Wins 'Spy Camera' Case Against City accessed 31 August 2020

Vumacam 2020 Vumacam accessed 31 August 2020
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