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Code of Practice for ethical use and deployment of facial recognition

by Geny Caloisi

The British Standards Institute (BSI) has introduced the inaugural British Standard Code of Practice dedicated to ensuring the ethical utilisation and implementation of facial recognition technology (FRT). This significant milestone, outlined in the code of practice BS 9347:2024, is a response to mounting concerns surrounding the proliferation of FRT and its implications for safety and ethical conduct.

Developed based on recommendations by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the code aims to foster public trust by providing guidelines for organisations on the responsible use of FRT within video surveillance-based systems. The BSIA’s proactive engagement in this area since 2020, including the establishment of a dedicated interest group and the publication of an industry-first ethical and legal guide, has laid the groundwork for this standard.

The standard emphasises six key principles of ‘trustworthiness’ derived from international bodies such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union, as well as alignment with UK AI regulatory principles. These principles encompass governance, accountability, human oversight, privacy, technical robustness, transparency, diversity, non-discrimination, and fairness.

The standard distinguishes between two types of FRT deployment – identification (who is it?) requiring human intervention, and verification (is it you?) not requiring any.

Pauline Norstrom, CEO, Anekanta Consulting and Anekanta AI, also Chair of the BSIA’s AI & Biometrics Special Interest Group, said: “The release of the FRT code of practice is a significant moment in the journey towards the ethical use of this AI biometric technology in the United Kingdom, and as the first of its kind in the world, it shows that British Industry is leading the way in this work with a procedural standard written for developers, integrators, deployers and stakeholders of FRT.

“It is different to other standards for AI and biometrics, as a non-technical code of practice that operationalises the principles for trustworthy AI (ethical AI) through the entire value chain making it easy for industry to implement transparently with clear governance and accountability, and arguably with potentially lower impacts, risks and costs. Crucially, the standard contains a metaphorical ‘stop button’ to cease use if impacts cannot be mitigated. It also frames FRT as an AI technology which aligns with the definition of AI in international standards and new or pending regulation.”

The standard provides comprehensive guidance across the FRT supply chain, from assessing the necessity of its use to procurement, installation, and ongoing usage. It also clarifies the distinction between FRT deployment for identification purposes, where human involvement is essential, and verification purposes, where human intervention is unnecessary.

Dave Wilkinson, Director of Technical Services, BSIA, said: The BSIA were at the forefront of the creation of this standard, starting the journey over three years ago with the publication of our legal and ethical guide, and we are pleased to see this major world-first code of practice being released. The use of FRT has not come without its own challenges, whether that has been down to the accuracy of the technology, or how and where it is deployed.

“Many relevant questions have been asked by privacy groups, industry stakeholders and other interested parties on the appropriate and proportionate use of such technology; this code of practice aims to instil trustworthiness in the use of FRT by setting out key principles covering the whole process from assessing the need to use it, to ensuring its continued operation remains fit for purpose and justified.”

Ultimately, the aim of this code of practice is to instil confidence among stakeholders involved in the development, deployment, and subjectivity of FRT. Interested parties can access the standard for purchase through the BSI website, ensuring adherence to ethical and legal standards in using this advancing technology for the enhancement of safety and security.

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