A CAMPAIGN group has warned the use of “Orwellian” facial recognition technology on crowds during the coronation will have a “seriously chilling” effect on free speech.

The Met police has said it is considering using the technology to look for a “watch list” of faces and focus on those who would trigger public protection concerns such as wanted criminals or offenders under strict licence conditions.

But Big Brother Watch’s legal and policy officer Madeleine Stone said it is “an authoritarian mass surveillance tool” that turns the public into “walking ID cards”.

She said: “This Orwellian technology may be used in China and Russia but has no place on the streets of Britain, least not during the coronation.

“The hundreds of thousands of innocent people attending this historic event must not be treated like suspects in a lineup and subjected to biometric police identity checks.

“The use of live facial recognition would have a serious chilling effect on the right to free speech on a day when thousands will be considering celebrating or protesting.”

Stone added: “If this dangerously inaccurate technology is deployed at the coronation it is unlikely to have any policing benefits but would have a serious cost to police resources and the public’s privacy rights, meaning many people will be wrongly flagged as criminals and forced to prove their innocence.

“Live facial recognition is not referenced in a single UK law, has never been debated in parliament, and is one of the most privacy-intrusive technologies ever used in British policing.

"This dystopian technology should not be anywhere near the Coronation. The Home Secretary should urgently ban police use of live facial recognition.”

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The move comes after the Home Office’s Police Powers Unit wrote to the campaign group Republic saying new laws could be used to stop “disruption at major sporting and cultural events” - which lawyers described as “intimidatory”.

Asked about the letter during an interview on BBC Radio 4 Today, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said: “They have the liberty that anybody in the United Kingdom has to protest, what they don’t have the liberty to do is to disrupt others.

“And that’s where we’re drawing and making a difference.”

The massive security operation around the coronation, dubbed Operation Golden Orb, will see around 9000 police officers on duty on the day of the event, including 1000 from forces outside the Met.