The use of facial recognition by the British police is testing public tolerance

LONDON (AP) – When the British police used face detection cameras to monitor the crowd who came to a football game in Wales, some fans protested by covering their faces. In a sign of technology split, even a neighboring police chief said he was against it.

South Wales police used transporters equipped with the technology outside of Cardiff’s stadium this week, as part of a long-standing process in which officials searched and blacklisted people in real time and blacklisted people who were not there for their misconduct , Human rights defenders and team supporters held a protest before the game between Cardiff City and Swansea City. They wore masks, balaclavas or scarves on their faces.

“The risk is disproportionate,” said Vince Alm, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association Wales, who co-organized the protest. “Football fans feel attracted” and are used as guinea pigs to test new technologies.

Real-time surveillance, tested in the UK, is one of the more aggressive applications of facial recognition in western democracies and raises questions about how technology will interfere with people’s daily lives. Authorities and businesses like to use it, but activists warn that it threatens human rights.

The British have long been used to video surveillance with one of the highest density of CCTV cameras in the world. For decades, cameras have been used in public spaces by security forces to combat threats by the Irish Republican Army and, more recently, domestic terrorist attacks after September 11, 2001.

Recent advances in surveillance technology mean that a new wave of facial recognition systems will test public acceptance.

South Wales police have taken the lead in Britain. In 2017, they started introducing and testing face scanning cameras after receiving a government grant. While a court found the legal process to be lawful last year, regulators and legislators still need to establish legal rules for its use.

Van cameras use the technology of Japan’s NEC to scan faces in bulk and assign them to an “watch list”, a database that mainly contains people searched or suspected of a crime. When the system detects people passing by, police officers stop that person to investigate further according to the troop’s website.

Rights groups believe that this type of surveillance raises concerns about privacy, consent, algorithmic accuracy, and questions about adding faces to surveillance lists.

“An alarming example of surveillance,” said Silkie Carlo, director of the Big Brother Watch privacy campaign group. “We are deeply concerned about undemocracy. This is a very controversial technology that has no explicit legal basis. “

Her group has been investigating other British police trials, including one of the London Metropolitan Force last year, when officials pushed aside a man trying to hide his face. They punished him for violating public order, the group said.

North Wales Police Commissioner Arfon Jones said taking photos of soccer fans with facial recognition was a “fishing expedition”. He also raised concerns about false positives.

British police and detective officers are civilians who have been elected to monitor and monitor the dozens of forces in the country. They were introduced in 2012 to improve accountability.

“I feel uncomfortable with this creeping impairment of our privacy,” Jones, a former police officer, said in an interview. He said the police would do better if they had information about a specific threat, such as an impending terrorist attack.

Jones clashed with his South Wales colleague, Alun Michael, after expressing similar concerns during a game day in October.

According to Michael, Jones’ criticism was based on a misunderstanding of the technology and a comprehensive review that the police faced.

“It is incomprehensible that Arfon Jones does not support measures that ensure the safety of football fans,” said Michael.

Face detection was used to locate fans whose Sunday game was banned due to past misconduct, and other people’s biometric data was automatically deleted, he said.

“There has not been a single illegal arrest as a result of face detection by the police in South Wales,” said Michael. Police used the technology at major events, including rugby games, royal visits, and yacht races, about twice a month at a Spice Girls concert in May that scanned nearly 19,000 faces and identified 15 on a watch list, including nine, and six others were arrested ,

“It’s really effective under laboratory conditions,” said Pete Fussey, a professor at the University of Essex. He monitored the processes of the London police, which also used the NEC system, and found a different result on the streets. He co-authored a report last year in which only eight of the 42 games were correct. The London program has since been discontinued.

“The police have relied on the algorithm most of the time, so if they trust computational decision making even though the decision making is wrong, it raises all sorts of questions regarding the machine’s accountability,” he said.

The debate is also happening in the United States, where real-time crowd monitoring is still rare and technology is used more often to identify suspects by guiding their images through a pool of police mug shots or driver’s license photos.

Critics in the United States, including politicians, want to ban or limit the recognition of faces based on fears of racial discrimination. Some point to China’s large network of street cameras to monitor ethnic minorities.

According to IHS Markit, the UK is the fourth largest camera-tight country in the world with one surveillance camera per 6.5 inhabitants.

According to a report by Comparitech, London is the fifth most monitored city in the world and one of only two non-Asian cities in the top 10. The British capital has almost 628,000 surveillance cameras.

It is so widespread that Britain even has a surveillance camera officer, Tony Porter.

He and data protection officer Elizabeth Denham have asked the police not to accept a ruling by the British High Court, which sees the South Wales trial as the green light for the generic use of automated facial recognition.

Denham is investigating use by the police and private companies. Among other things, shop owners and landlords are interested in using the technology to find shoplifters and abusive customers.

The British startup Facewatch sells a security system to retailers such as the convenience store chain Budgens, which “compares faces to known perpetrators within seconds of entering your company” and sends instant notifications.

The developer of the Kings Cross Estate in London announced last year that from May 2016 to March 2018 he had used two facial recognition cameras to prevent and detect crime in the neighborhood. This triggered a backlash as the system was used without public knowledge or consent.


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