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London police turn to facial recognition to tackle serious crime

Officials say the technology will help police fight violence and keep people safe.

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London is calling, and now watching. 

James Martin/CNET

London police have a new tool to fight crime: live facial recognition technology. Police say the tech will aid in catching criminals while also helping those in need of assistance. 

The Metropolitan Police Service will begin using Live Facial Recognition, or LFR, according to a Friday press release. Tech company NEC will provide the facial recognition system that'll be deployed in locations across London where serious offenders are likely to be. Police officials say the technology will help fight against serious crime in the city as well as help locate missing children or vulnerable adults. 

"We are using a tried-and-tested technology, and have taken a considered and transparent approach in order to arrive at this point," Nick Ephgrave, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner, said in the release. "Every day, our police officers are briefed about suspects they should look out for; LFR improves the effectiveness of this tactic."

As for concerns over privacy, Ephgrave says there are safeguards and transparency in place to protect people's rights. A video about how the technology will be used says photos of people who don't match up with any records will automatically be deleted. 

In the US, cities such as San FranciscoOakland and Somerville, Massachusetts, have banned the use of facial recognition technology. Schools are looking to add the tech in hopes of preventing school shootings, though supporters of the technology have said it won't stop shooters