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“Guinea pigs” – Cardiff City fans criticise facial recognition

Fans of Cardiff City have criticised South Wales Police for utilising facial recognition technology without prior consultation at their game against Swansea City.

At Sunday’s game many Cardiff City fans turned out in Halloween marks in protest at the use of facial recognition and were seen holding “No facial recognition” banners outside the Liberty Stadium.

Representatives from Cardiff City Supporters’ Club and FSA Cymru also expressed disappointment at South Wales Police’s decision to utilise facial recognition technology at the match this weekend – a technology which civil liberties campaigners say still lacks meaningful oversight.

Vince Alm from Cardiff City Supporters’ Club, an affiliate of the FSA, said: “We strongly oppose the police decision to use facial recognition.

“It’s just a local football match, yet we haven’t had a say and we can’t opt out.”

Plans for policing the fixture had been in place since the summer when police assured supporters the technology would not be used at the match – a decision later overturned by senior officers on the force.

“It’s about privacy, principle, the lack of consultation,” said FSA Cymru’s Paul Corkrey. “Once again using football supporters as guinea pigs to test out new technology and new powers.”

Away fans travelling to the match were already subjected to a restrictive “bubble match” policing operation – implemented despite, Corkrey said, the recent good behaviour from both sets of supporters.

The cost of the operation, together with use of the controversial technology, and what it was meant to achieve have all been brought into question by Cardiff City fans.

“Currently the number of banning orders is very low,” Corkrey said. “Probably below 50 for both clubs combined so 20,270 football supporters were subjected to facial recognition in order to monitor fewer than 50 people on a police force ‘watchlist’.”

Corkrey told us questions remain over the technology, how South Wales Police use the data they gather, how they compile their lists of targets when scanning crowds and its fallibility.

FSA careworker Amanda Jacks said: “I share the concerns of my colleagues in Wales.

“It’s especially disappointing that earlier decisions not to use the technology were reversed – this has the potential to undermine relationships between supporter representatives and the police.

“The use of this technology is something we have raised at Football Policing Independent Advisory groups in England where we’ve been told that there are no current plants to use facial recognition but if this changes there will be a full consultation process with supporter representatives.”

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