LONDON-A key investor in London’s King’s Cross development has told the BBC that it is trying to find out more detail about how facial recognition is being used in the area.

The BT Pension Scheme (BTPS) bankrolled the site alongside an Australian fund, which owns a majority stake. It follows the UK’s data protection watchdog and the mayor of London in seeking more information from the zone’s developer Argent.

“We are looking into the reported use of facial recognition at King’s Cross and take this issue very seriously,” a statement issued by Hermes Investment Management, on behalf of BTPS, said.

“We are working closely with Argent to fully understand the extent and use of this technology.” Telecoms firm BT has its own surveillance solutions division, but a spokesman for the company said it was not involved in the development.

Sensitive data

The Financial Times was first to report that a live-scanning face ID system was being used at the 67-acre (0.3 sq km) site around King’s Cross station. The land is privately-owned, but much of it is open to the public and is a popular thoroughfare. It is home to Google, Samsung and Central Saint Martins college as well as several shops, schools and child-focused leisure activities.

Argent told the BBC last Monday that the technology was being used to “ensure public safety” and was one of “a number of detection and tracking methods” being operated. However, it declined to share more details about either the technology, or how it had sourced a database of people’s facial features.

Privacy campaigners have raised concerns, with Big Brother Watch claiming that “facial recognition surveillance risks making privacy in Britain extinct”.

The House of Commons Science and Technology committee also recently published a report raising its own concerns about the spread of live facial recognition tech, which analyses images as they are captured.