Reading today about the case of Ivan Golunov, the investigative journalist who was falsely arrested (and has now, remarkably, been released and cleared of all charges), I find out that in Russia only single-picket protest is allowed.

Imagine that. No gathering or assembly. No Extinction Rebellion, no Reclaim the Night, no protest against education spending cuts.

In Russia protesters must stand at least 165 feet apart to qualify as a single-picket protest, or risk arrest.

On June 7th, the day after Ivan Golunov’s arrest, people queued to have their turn to protest against his arrest and imprisonment. There is more information and remarkable photos in this article by the newspaper Golunov works for. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2019/06/08/you-can-t-be-proud-of-a-country-where-this-happens

In the UK we have:

  • the right to freedom of assembly
  • freedom of thought, belief and religion
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom of association
  • protection from discrimination in respect of those rights and freedoms

These are in our Human Rights Act 1998 as enshrined in the ECHR European Convention on Human Rights.

Protesters also have protection from a legal framework: Data Protection Act 2018, Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. And, it is by virtue of Section 34 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 that there has been a Surveillance Camera Commissioner was appointed. More about the Surveillance Camera Commissioner role in the next post.


Following a two year trial by the London Metropolitan Police on using Live Facial Recognition (LFR) in their communities – the London Policing Ethics Panel has produced this final report..

Here’s the link so you can read it for yourself (its straightforward language and fascinating content makes it a feasible read)


And here are some of the parts that particularly interested me or chimed a note:

On the ‘chilling’ effect of LFR

We also asked survey participants whether they would be likely to stay away from events where LFR would be in use (a so-called ‘chilling effect’). Overall fewer than one in five respondents thought that they might stay away from events, but there was significant variation across sociodemographic variables. Younger people were much more likely to say they would stay away from LFR monitored events – 38% of 16-24 year olds compared to 10% of those aged 55 and over – as were people from Asian, Black and Mixed ethnic groups.

Additionally, it should be noted that in our interviews some commented that they would be more likely to attend LFR monitored events, as they would feel safer. p7


On the conditions that should be met in the use of LFR

LFR should only be deployed where the following five conditions can be met.

  1. It can be shown that the use of LFR offers more than marginal benefit to the public, sufficient to compensate for the potential distrust it may invoke. 
  2. It can be shown from trial data (and other available data) that the technology itself will not import unacceptable gender and racial bias into policing operations.
  3. Controls on use are sufficiently robust to ensure that each LFR deployment is appropriately assessed and authorised, when it is judged both necessary and proportionate to use it for a specific policing purpose.
  4. It can be shown that human operators will be knowledgeable about the potential injustices that may be caused by an inappropriate response to identification alerts, that they know how to avoid these, and are accountable for their actions.
  5. MPS and MOPAC develop robust governance and oversight arrangements that balance the technological benefits of LFR with their potential intrusiveness. These should meet the Home Office Biometrics Strategy’s requirement for transparency, take into account guidance from the Surveillance Camera and Biometric Commissioners, and compensate for the limited powers of the Surveillance Camera Commissioner to inspect, audit or enforce compliance.  p11. (those are my bold highlights)


On the inherent unknowingness of the impact of new technologies

“The use of LFR technology is in its infancy in UK policing. There are currently significant limitations in terms of how and where LFR might be used, and therefore the types of outcomes it might produce. But it is a defining characteristic of new technologies that their eventual reach is unpredictable, a characteristic which makes ethical assessment particularly challenging. We sought to be realistic in our ethical assessment by grounding it in LFR’s current capabilities, whilst also being attentive to the benefits and harms associated with a more highly developed version of the technology. Overestimating future benefits and harms “may well lead to a focus on scenarios that are morally thrilling but very unlikely” (Van de Poel, 2016) but some degree of ethical imagination is imperative. When novel technology is introduced it is relatively uncontrolled and its uses experimental, so it is hard to gauge its impact. By the time a technology is more established, it may be too difficult to halt its use irrespective of harms or negative effects. (Collingridge, 1982)” 

p17 (again, my bold highlights)






This week I printed a series of photopolymers and monotypes onto a light weight Kozo paper. The plan was to layer up similar and the same images, but shifted, looking for the liminal portrait. A portrait that both ‘is’ and ‘isn’t’. And a process that I’ll use for this commission when I work with participant-protesters. Or should that be co-producers? (a question that nips me as I think/work is this difference between participant and co-producer).

Here’s some of the test results. I’ll use this blog post as the place to record my findings. It won’t be compelling reading, but a document to help me make decisions. The photos come in pairs to show both sides of the piece. They are essentially maquettes. That’s a toothpick, and I’m holding them up to the light against the window. The plan is to make placard-size portraits.

#1. Photopolymer made from two poses (from a doubled-up acetate print out.)

#2. Photopolymer made from four poses (from a acetate print out.)

#3. Photopolymer print and a monotype print. Same pose.

#4. Four monotype prints. Same pose.

I like #1 and #2. Both photographic. Both a sequence of poses. #2 is harder to photograph – its more subtle, more ‘liminal’.

On a bigger scale I think I would need to screenprint the photographic images rather than photopolymer (it gets too expensive at that scale) and screenprint would also allow me to use different colour. However I’m a fan of the misty-atmosphere of the photopolymer (that comes from the intaglio inking process), and I’m generally not keen on the screenprint aesthetic (a bit flat for me and not so satisfying to print). So we’ll see. Probably the next step is to trial it on the larger scale.


For my Urgency Commission with the University of Exeter (UoE), I will be working with people who have been or are protesters. I am hoping some of them will be UoE staff and students. To reach people often takes a little while. In the meantime I have started to test the processes I may use to create the liminal portraits.

The intention is to involve the protester-participants in the making of their own liminal portrait, and in the process to explore and discuss AFR technologies and their potential impact on the right to protest.

In this way I need to find a process of making that can genuinely involve them, yet is steered by my plan for the final outcome. (I do not therefore call what I am doing ‘participatory art’ – I’m sure I’ll write on this later, or in a different blog, the difference between co-produced and participatory art)

Yesterday I made a whole load of monotype portraits, using a helpful volunteer as a test-subject. I will play with these in several ways, including as chine collé onto embossed prints.

The aim is to create a portrait that explores the liminality of our identity. I want to make a portrait that is both recognisable by the human eye and unrecognisable by AFR technologies.


Panopticon .. that’s a new word for me. It is satisfying to say and particularly in the context of the area of automatic facial recognition (AFR), gratifying to learn about.

I was drawn to the Wikipedia page on the Panopticon by this article on Medium by a contributor Meltem Demirors.

The panoptican is a type of building and a form of control. Jeremy Bentham, a social theorist in the 18th century, came up with a design for a prison whereby all the inmates could be observed by a single watchman. As stated in the Wikipedia entry:

Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all the inmates’ cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that they are motivated to act as though they are being watched at all times. Thus, they are effectively compelled to regulate their own behaviour.

The use of AFR is a form of panoptican. The threat of observation and monitoring is bound to influence how we regulate our behaviour. There are a multitude of protests happening right now – how will the increasing (and currently unregulated use) of AFR in public spaces impact on people’s desire to be counted in the future?

Demirors speaks of the necessary privacies that we should demand in the face of pervading surveillance.

These are:

  1. Privacy in Economic Interactions, meaning who we send money to, how, when, in what amount, and why is something we have a right to keep private to ourselves and the recipient
  2. Privacy in Movement, meaning we should be able to move about physical, digital, and virtual space with anonymity, and we should be able to enter and leave spaces, whether in real life or online, without giving out identifying information
  3. Privacy in Communications, meaning we should be able to conduct conversations with certainty that they will remain private, and that we should be able to abstract our identity from our communications both in the physical world and online

I would add a fourth perhaps.. Privacy in Protest, meaning we should be able to attend a gathering with like-minded others to raise awareness on a critical issue, and that we should be able to do this without fear of our biometric information (or our children’s or young people’s) being added to a database for purposes beyond our knowledge or control.

The protest, the peace gathering, the vigil, the action – all forms of action which are there to empower people to stand up and speak out on behalf of others, could be made impotent under the threat of surveillance and its unknown implications.