An anonymous reader writes "Istanbul's popular (and crowded) Istiklal shopping, cafe, and restaurant street is being outfitted with 64 wirelessly controlled, tamper-proof face-recognition cameras attached to a computer system capable of scanning 15,000 faces per second in a moving crowd for a positive match. The link from Samanyolu, badly translated by Google, states that 3 cameras are in place so far and that if trials are successful, this will mark the first time such a system, previously used by Scotland Yard and normally reserved for indoor security use, will be put to use in a public outdoor setting. It also notes that each camera controlled by the system is capable of 'locking onto' the faces of known criminals and pickpockets detected in the crowd and 'tracking' their movements for up to 300 meters before the next, closer placed camera takes over." Hit the link for more of this reader's background on the growing electronic encroachment on privacy in this city, which will be the European Capital of Culture in 2010, causing him to ask, "Is the historic city of Istanbul turning into the new London?"
While the article doesn't state it outright, it would appear likely that the outdoor face recognition system, if "successful," will be expanded to other crowded areas of Istanbul as well, which has already seen a dazzling increase in the number of installed plain-vanilla (non face-recognizing) CCTV cameras in recent years. This comes after Istanbul's two signature Bosphorus bridges have become passable only by vehicles with a mandatory vehicle windscreen-mounted electronic pass, subway and bus tickets in the city have gone electronic, vote tallying in municipal and national elections has become fully computerized, and future plans for mandatory biometric ID cards for all Turkish citizens have been announced by the government.
The ruling "moderate Islamist" AKP party appears to frame these and other e-government initiatives as "keeping step with the times," "keeping step with other major world cities," and "making living safer, easier and more efficient through the targeted use of electronic technology." Its secular critics, on the other hand, argue that everything and everyone under the sun is rapidly becoming electronically trackable thanks to the omnipresence of mobile phones and gratuitous overuse of these installed electronic systems, and that these systems will, eventually, form a dense surveillance grid that could turn daily life for Turks (and secular Turks critical of the current government in particular) into living in a veritable Big Brother House.