Brave New World

Facial Recognition technology and the threat to public protest

Portrait-placards made with protesters. Together we asked what impact could the use of facial recognition technology in public spaces have on our right to protest?

This commission by the University of Exeter (Arts & Culture) has allowed me to work with protesters to explore this question through portraiture. I’ve had access to the academic researchers at the University of Exeter and it’s led me to meet with people outside the university and working in the business of facial recognition technologies.

There’s a film about the commission at on the University of Exeter Arts and Culture website

I’ve kept a blog at

This commission has been a collaboration with the five protesters, screenprinter & artist George Barron (Double Elephant Print Workshop), jeweller and paper artist Alysa Freeman, and photographer Rob Darch.

An exhibition of the work was held at Exeter’s MakeTank in November 2020 which we called ‘Brave New World’. It was a window installation – viewed from the street, by passersby on the pavement or in the traffic queue alongside.

Picture By Jim Wileman – Catherine Cartwright’s ‘Brave New World’ at Maketank, Exeter, Devon.
Picture By Jim Wileman – Catherine Cartwright’s ‘Brave New World’ at Maketank, Exeter, Devon.

There’s much to be said on the subject, and the current debate is dynamic. Here is a list of links to reports and articles.

Independent Report on the London Metropolitan Police Service’s Trial of Facial Recognition Technology

The Moral Maze: Surveillance and Human Freedom (Radio Four)

Your Protest Rights: Liberty

Facial Recognition in the States by Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology

Guidance from the Surveillance Camera Commissioner to Police Forces on the use of facial recognition

London Policing Ethics Panel report on use of live facial recognition

“Nothing to Fear, Nothing to Hide”