MSPs have warned live facial recognition software would be a “radical departure” from the current police practice of policing by consent.
Police Scotland initially said it would like to be able to use the technology by 2026, before changing tack.
A senior officer has said the force will keep a “watching brief” on facial recognition trials in England and Wales and a “robust programme of public consultation and engagement” will be undertaken before any such technology is introduced.
The Justice Sub-Committee on Policing has warned there is no justification for use of the software – which cross-references CCTV images with police databases – in light of privacy and human rights concerns.
A report published on Tuesday as part of the committee’s inquiry into the advancement said the technology is “known to discriminate against females and those from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities”.
The report added: “The use of live facial recognition technology would be a radical departure from Police Scotland’s fundamental principle of policing by consent.”
The committee also said Police Scotland would need to ensure any technology in use would need to be “provided for in legislation and meets human rights and data protection requirements”.
Police Scotland initially planned to roll out the software – as detailed in Policing 2026, a ten year strategy published by the force.
They have since pledged to put the plan on hold and have committed to take part in a wider debate about the implications of the software.
Convener John Finnie said: “The sub-committee is reassured that Police Scotland have no plans to introduce live facial recognition technology at this time.
“It is clear that this technology is in no fit state to be rolled out or indeed to assist the police with their work.
“Current live facial recognition technology throws up far too many ‘false positives’ and contains inherent biases that are known to be discriminatory.”
He added: “Our inquiry has also shone light on other issues with facial recognition technology that we now want the Scottish Police Authority and the Scottish Government to consider.
“Not least amongst these are the legal challenges against similar technologies in England and Wales, and the apparent lack of law explicitly governing its use in Scotland – by any organisation.
“So whether this technology is being used by private companies, public authorities or the police, the Scottish Government needs to ensure there is a clear legal framework to protect the public and police alike from operating in a facial recognition Wild West.”
Assistant Chief Constable Duncan Sloan, Police Scotland’s lead for major crime and public protection, said: “Police Scotland is not using, trialling or testing live facial recognition technology.
“We are keeping a watching brief on the trialling of the technology in England and Wales.
“Prior to any such technology being implemented we would carry out a robust programme of public consultation and engagement around the use of this technology, its legitimacy, viability and value for money.
“This would include taking advice and guidance on ethical, human rights and civil liberties considerations.
“In my view, the use of such technology would not be widespread but would be used in an intelligence-led, targeted way.”