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Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

A British privacy watchdog is preparing to mount a legal challenge to the use of AI-based facial recognition technology in the U.K.

Why it matters: Law enforcement around the world is increasingly using real-time facial recognition. The technology is already widespread in China and is used by some police departments in the U.S.

The details: The UK has an extensive video-surveillance system. Several police departments — including London's — have experimented with using surveillance cameras for real-time facial recognition, which uses AI to scan the faces of passersby in a live video feed and try to match them to photo databases.

Accuracy issues: Proponents say the systems help police fight crime — the South Wales Police said in May that theirs had led to more than 450 arrests — but their accuracy varies. Big Brother Watch, the group preparing to sue in the U.K., found that 102 out of 104 people were incorrectly identified during a recent facial-recognition trial in London.

Across the Atlantic: A group of researchers at the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology estimated in 2016 that half of Americans appear in at least one police facial-recognition database. Obviously, most of those people are not suspected of committing crimes — in fact, the Georgetown report found that only 8 percent of the photos in the FBI's databases show known criminals.

Face recognition surveillance — identifying people in real-time from live video feeds — risks being an imminent reality for many Americans.
— Clare Garvie, associate at the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology, in a Big Brother Watch report

What's next: Big Brother Watch has criticized what it calls the "lawless growth of Orwellian surveillance" in the U.K. and is gearing up to bring a lawsuit against the police, arguing that automated facial recognition violates the European Convention of Human Rights.

Go deeper: The Georgetown report on police face recognition, "The Perpetual Line-up," is an eye-opening survey of how the technology is used in the U.S.

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”