Michael Drury discusses with Computer Weekly the issues surrounding early facial recognition technology

Michael Drury discusses with Computer Weekly the issues surrounding early facial recognition technology

BCL partner, Michael Drury provides comment to Computer Weekly on the growing issues surrounding the use of surveillance and facial recognition technology in the fight against crime.

In the article titled ‘How facial recognition technology threatens basic privacy right’ Computer Weekly explores the increasing concern, as adoption of facial recognition systems grows, that this technology could undermine fundamental privacy rights and how it can be kept in check.

This article was originally published by ComputerWeekly.com on 2nd July. Below is a short excerpt from the article*:

“‘Although the use of surveillance and facial recognition technology is widespread and always growing, these systems are still in their infancy and can often be inaccurate. Michael Drury, partner at BCL Solicitors, says the biggest problem is that they are “hit and miss” at best.

“Most people would applaud facial recognition technology if it prevents the commission of terrorist atrocities and other serious crimes. But that remains a very big ‘if’, and the potential benefits need to be weighed against the cost to us all of having our very beings recorded and those details held by the police,” he says.

“We know it is better at recognising men than women, and Caucasians rather than other ethnic groups. The potential for misidentification of suspects and miscarriages of justice is one which should not be underestimated.

“Police and other law enforcement agencies should be wary of seeing new technologies as a panacea and worthy of use simply because the word ‘digital’ can be used to describe them.”’

*You can read the full article here in pdf format or on the Computer Weekly website.



Michael joined BCL as a partner in September 2010 from GCHQ where for a number of years he was Director for Legal Affairs and a member of the main Board of Directors, having been appointed GCHQ’s first full-time legal adviser in 1996. He was called to the Bar in 1982 and subsequently admitted as a solicitor at the time of his move to GCHQ. Prior to that he was a tax lawyer in the City and then prosecuted for HM Customs & Excise and the Serious Fraud Office where he had the conduct of some of the most notable cases in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Michael’s practice is diverse, ranging from extradition (where he has successfully represented senior Ministers and others in former Soviet Union states, defeating extradition claims and securing the removal of and preventing the issue of Red Notices) to representing individuals in regulatory proceedings brought by the FCA (in LIBOR and other matters); acting in criminal investigations by the SFO (including for corporates and individuals in bribery and corruption cases, and in LIBOR); acting in investigations by the Information Commissioner’s Office (in the spin off from NCA investigations into ‘blagging’); and representing individuals in arenas as wide ranging as the Metropolitan Police investigation into the alleged involvement of British officials in the transfer of individuals to Libya under the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to fraud investigations by a variety of police forces in England and Wales. Michael has published articles about Government investigations in ‘The International Comparative Legal Guide: Corporate Investigations 2017’ and provided the England and Wales Chapter of the ‘Getting the Deal Through’ publication ‘Government Investigations 2017’ (both co-authored with Chris Whalley).

In addition, Michael has experience in the International Criminal Court having been part of the team of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta against whom proceedings before the Court were discontinued by the prosecutor on the basis of, amongst other things, analysis suggested by Michael.

Moreover Michael is a leading expert on surveillance and investigatory powers (as well as information law and cybercrime) advising a number of corporates (UK and overseas) about their obligations under the UK regime and its interaction with the regimes overseas. That expertise was acknowledged by the invitation to give public evidence in April 2106 to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights in respect of the human rights compatibility of the Investigatory Powers Bill (as it then was). Michael also provided evidence to David Anderson QC – the then reviewer of terrorism legislation – in his “Bulk Powers” review (in August 2016). Michael has provided a substantial body of advice about the likely effect of the new Investigatory Powers Act 2106 (‘IPA’) both before it received Royal Assent in December 2016 and, in the last few months, concentrating on the implications for tech companies (UK and overseas) especially with regard to what the future might look like given the numerous challenges to the extant Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (‘RIPA’) regime (in the English courts and in Strasbourg), which will have a “knock on” effect as far as the new regime is concerned, and the need to consider the effects of Watson and Others in the December 2016 CJEU judgment.

This practice builds on Michael’s unique experience at GCHQ, where he had control of the full range of legal issues. He has unrivalled expertise in the fields of interception and surveillance, being responsible in part for the drafting of RIPA and its secondary legislation, and taking part within Government in every subsequent consideration of the law in this area. Aside from being part of the team managing GCHQ’s legal relations with CSPs/ISPs and gaining a deep understanding of the law in this area, he was involved in all of the significant litigation concerning interception under RIPA. Further, from that time he has wide experience of acting in public inquires, resisting challenges to Government action in the surveillance field (especially in relation to interception and the collection of communications data), and disclosure in civil and criminal litigation (including asset freezing) where issues of public interest immunity and the ban on the use of interception as evidence were to the fore.

Michael co-authors with Julian Hayes the England and Wales Chapter of the ‘Getting the Deal Through’ publication ‘Cybersecurity 2017’ which provides a thoroughgoing guide to the law of England and Wales (incorporating EU law) concerning cybersecurity and cybercrime.

If you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised in this article with one of our solicitors then please get in touch in the strictest confidence.