Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Security Technology Your Rights Online

Scotland Yard Confirms It's Using Facial Recognition Tech 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-guys-are-a-riot dept.
nonprofiteer writes "Scotland Yard confirms that it's using facial recognition technology to identify rioters in London. 'A law enforcement official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that facial recognition is one of many tools police are using to hunt suspects still at large.' Meanwhile, the vigilante group trying an amateur stab applying facial recognition to the riot photos abandoned the project because the results sucked. This is the big test of the surveillance state that London has become. Are all those cameras effective, or just taking a toll on privacy without bringing added security?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Scotland Yard Confirms It's Using Facial Recognition Tech

Comments Filter:
  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:17AM (#37067934) Journal

    Nope!

    "We want to see who is doing a great job at enforcing the peace! Better law enforcement through publicity! We need his name and picture! After all, he has nothing to hide right? Right?"

    • by JosKarith (757063) on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:26AM (#37068004)
      You're being an agent provocateur here but it has to be said that this is a trend in the UK security services - they want the right to monitor everything you do but a notoriously camera-shy themselves. I guess it's similar to how nobody is more paranoid about their posessions being taken than a thief.
      Personally I think that an always-on camera wirelessly streaming to a backup server should be standard equipment for the police. It would eliminate a level of "He said,she said" in coourt cases. But I guess the police don't like the idea because at the moment if it's your word against an officer the officer's word has precedence so they feel they don't need it.
      • by lpp (115405)

        You're being an agent provocateur here but it has to be said that this is a trend in the UK security services - they want the right to monitor everything you do but a notoriously camera-shy themselves. I guess it's similar to how nobody is more paranoid about their posessions being taken than a thief.

        Personally I think that an always-on camera wirelessly streaming to a backup server should be standard equipment for the police. It would eliminate a level of "He said,she said" in coourt cases. But I guess the police don't like the idea because at the moment if it's your word against an officer the officer's word has precedence so they feel they don't need it.

        Then it seems as though we need a consumer grade model is in order. As always it comes down to money though. I wonder how well it would sell.

        • by JosKarith (757063)
          TBH if my protesting days weren't behind me this is exatly what I'd do. That way if anything happened I would have footage of everything without running into the police's lovely habit of grabbing cameras. Do you think Simon Harwood would have ever been brought to book if private individuals hadn't been filming it?
      • Yes, you read my tone mostly right - I put things in quotes that are a dramatically amplified version of a serious point.

        Not only are security forces camera shy, if you *do* get your own footage for your protection they then push even harder and game the system to make that an adjunct crime.

        • by Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) on Friday August 12, 2011 @11:26AM (#37068782) Homepage

          Because of this I have often wondered if I were to print up a bumper sticker and stick it to the bumper and just below the driver's side window that states "By approaching this vehicle you agree to audio and video recording". It basically becomes a EULA but similar signs exist places that have video surveillance (the "this premisses is under 24 hour video surveillance" signs).I think one could argue that in a 2 party consent state that since those signs are legal the warning sticker on your vehicle would also be legal since they were informed that they might be recorded. This would also be similar to the recording stating that this call may be recorded for quality reasons when you call a customer service number. Now I am not a lawyer so I don't have any idea how this would pan out but it seems logical to me.

          A vehicle seems like an ideal place for a personal recording device as there would be ample power and it could be hardened against authority oopses. It would also provide a number of good mounting positions for multiple cameras and mics.

          • by cayenne8 (626475)

            A vehicle seems like an ideal place for a personal recording device as there would be ample power and it could be hardened against authority oopses. It would also provide a number of good mounting positions for multiple cameras and mics.

            Just make sure you turn it all off if you're driving home after a few hours at the bar...or other instances where you do not want to gather evidence on yourself.

        • by JosKarith (757063)
          Oh, I totally agree. The law has to cut both ways, and with public confidence in the police (up until the riots) at an all-time low something had to be done. Unfortunately this is all part of the backlash of 9/11 and 7/7 - in the wake of those events the security forces launched a huge grab for power that was given to them by a frightened populace and is only now being questioned.
          The biggest repercussion of the riots? Personally I believe it is this - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14459127 [bbc.co.uk] - the Poli
    • by Anonymous Coward

      enforcing the peace

      Did you choose this phrase intentionally? It's not from 1984, FAFAIK, but it smells as doublespeak nonetheless. It's not exactly new either: 'pacify' comes from the Roman 'pacificare', which means 'subjugate'.

    • "We want to see who is doing a great job at enforcing the peace! Better law enforcement through publicity! We need his name and picture! After all, he has nothing to hide right? Right?"

      He doesn't want to hide from the public, but rather from his colleagues (maybe he is not actually allowed to share this detail with the public, so he must remain anonymous to avoid reprisals from within the force)

  • by mfh (56)

    Ronald Regan is sought for questioning.

    • by mfh (56)

      Ronald Reagan also.

      • by tom17 (659054)

        So is that ghost from Scream.

        • by mfh (56)

          And these four guys [imgur.com].

          • by idontgno (624372)

            I'm just waiting for some clever thing at the Yard to see pictures of rioters in Guy Fawkes masks and uncover the sinister conspiracy between the rioters and Anonymous.

            It'll turn out that hundreds of shops and homes were looted and burnt out for the lulz.

  • They need to broadcast V for Vendetta on every TV in the UK.

    • Guy Fawkes is real part of their history.

    • They need to broadcast V for Vendetta on every TV in the UK.

      Yes, that would certainly calm things down. [/sarcasm]

      • by mfh (56) on Friday August 12, 2011 @11:09AM (#37068538) Homepage Journal

        Yes, that would certainly calm things down. [/sarcasm]

        I'm pretty tired of hearing these riots being referred to as being anything remotely like V for Vendetta. These are young people, disenfranchised people without jobs or educations, robbing stores and beating people up and stealing their stuff. None of them are attacking the government directly for political reasons. They are hurting their own people; it's a social implosion and it's fucking sad.

        • Yes, that would certainly calm things down. [/sarcasm]

          I'm pretty tired of hearing these riots being referred to as being anything remotely like V for Vendetta. These are young people, disenfranchised people without jobs or educations, robbing stores and beating people up and stealing their stuff. None of them are attacking the government directly for political reasons. They are hurting their own people; it's a social implosion and it's fucking sad.

          I totally agree with you. While I certainly don't think V for Vendetta is the new New testament as many seem to, I do find the overall moral of the movie to be interesting. And I found it to be a fairly entertaining movie. However, none of the "protesters" in the end were violent or destructive in any way, this is certainly not what is happening in the UK right now. In fact, as I recall, they mildly addressed that people would take advantage of a situation, but seriously downplayed that fact. The problem is

        • by Shimbo (100005)

          These are young people, disenfranchised people without jobs or educations, robbing stores and beating people up and stealing their stuff.

          You're probably largely correct but they are not all young, or unemployed or uneducated.

        • by retchdog (1319261)

          from the graphic novel:

          Evey: All this riot and uproar, V... is this Anarchy? Is this the Land of Do-As-You-Please?
          V: No. This is only the land of take-what-you-want. Anarchy means "without leaders", not "without order". With anarchy comes an age of ordnung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order... this age of ordnung will begin when the mad and incoherent cycle of verwirrung that these bulletins reveal has run its course... This is not anarchy, Eve. This is chaos.

  • As long as law enforcement doesn't take down social networks... People in London have been using it to protect themselves and communicate with each other from the yobs running around.

    Use of this technology was inevitable and people can always argue about the "big brother" feeling with these cameras and technology, but in the end it dOesn't affect normal, law-aBiding citizEns except for Yobs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bob-taro (996889)

      As long as law enforcement doesn't take down social networks... People in London have been using it to protect themselves and communicate with each other from the yobs running around.

      Use of this technology was inevitable and people can always argue about the "big brother" feeling with these cameras and technology, but in the end it dOesn't affect normal, law-aBiding citizEns except for Yobs.

      Odd -- I feel an unaccountable desire to agree with you...

  • Uh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:35AM (#37068086) Homepage

    This is the big test of the surveillance state that London has become. Are all those cameras effective, or just taking a toll on privacy without bringing added security?"

    OK, firstly, London is a city not a state. But it's the second part of this sentence I have problems with. There are two possibilities. One is that the cameras are effective and allow their owners to identify people. Note that most CCTV cameras in the UK are privately owned, they aren't a part of some kind of government super network. But imagining they were, this could pose a privacy problem.

    The second possibility is that they don't work reliably and you usually can't identify people due to hoods, baseball caps, or low quality images, in which case they aren't a privacy problem.

    I don't see any way cameras can be both ineffective and a privacy problem simultaneously. If they don't work then they are, at best, an expensive placebo.

    Judging from the quality of pictures put up by the Met, I'd imagine they're good enough to provide evidence in court if you already have an idea of who it is, but they probably aren't good enough to reliably identify you out of millions of possibilities, even assuming facial recognition tech was really good. There might be a few successes but most images are of too low quality or the intruders too well disguised for it to have any impact.

    • by Bob-taro (996889)

      I don't see any way cameras can be both ineffective and a privacy problem simultaneously. If they don't work then they are, at best, an expensive placebo.

      I think you mean "at worst". Anyway, I see your point, but there may be some room for cameras to be both ineffective and a privacy concern. They may be ineffective because as you say the "bad guys" wear hoods, caps, and in other ways try to avoid the cameras, but they may still be able to provide identifiable images of the law-abiding public in general.

    • this man [blogspot.com]? If so, call our tipster hotline at 1-888-4-unmask. Think of the children!

      Yesssss... using facial recognition on people wearing hoodies, masks, and bandannas covering everything but their eyes. Somehow, that makes perfect governmental sense.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "Yesssss... using facial recognition on people wearing hoodies, masks, and bandannas covering everything but their eyes. Somehow, that makes perfect governmental sense."

        There are _many_ cameras. You just follow them n the recordings on their way to or from the crime until you come to a camera where he has removed or not yet put on the mask.

    • Re:Uh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ftobin (48814) * on Friday August 12, 2011 @11:06AM (#37068494) Homepage

      I don't see any way cameras can be both ineffective and a privacy problem simultaneously.

      You're assuming a singular individual. They could be ineffective against one segment of the population, but a privacy problem for another. In particular, they would be ineffective against suspects who know enough to use caps to evade the recognition, but a privacy problem for ordinary citizens who do not use caps.

      • by Spad (470073)

        ...ordinary citizens who do not use caps

        I'm not sure that the use of hats is quite as specialised a field as you make out.

      • ...but a privacy problem for ordinary citizens who do not use caps.

        Sure, but this sword cuts both ways. If (big if) Britain did somehow become an oppressive police state overnight and ordinary citizens needed to protect themselves from it, they'd just start wearing baseball caps. You can't realistically stop anyone from doing that given they fit inside a pocket. Apparatus of oppression dismantled, just like that.

        But contrary to frequent Slashdot fantasty, the UK is the exact opposite of a police state. It h

    • by trust_jmh (651322)

      This is the big test of the surveillance state that London has become. Are all those cameras effective, or just taking a toll on privacy without bringing added security?"

      OK, firstly, London is a city not a state.

      "surveillance state" It is unambiguous enough in this sentence not to need hyphenating.

      But it's the second part of this sentence I have problems with. There are two possibilities.

      No. Privacy has more scope than just being/not-being identified.

    • I don't see any way cameras can be both ineffective and a privacy problem simultaneously. If they don't work then they are, at best, an expensive placebo.

      Easily: false positives.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      It is reasonable to expect cameras, software, and related equipment to steadily improve. There are no intrinsic barriers to this becoming highly effective technology EVEN IF IT'S ONLY MODERATELY EFFECTIVE NOW.
      UAVs were once less effective than manned Forward Air Controllers. Now they can loiter over a battlespace 24/7 in rotation and provide constant combat surveillance. IED teams can be tracked from where they assemble to their IED placement location and dealt with.

  • I'm glad the police can use this technology THIS TIME- although it is quite scary that it is progressing so much (and who knows when it will be used for less approvable scenarios). What the police have today corporations and criminals will have tomorrow (or is it the other way around). You can't escape it either. I stay away from Facebook and the like- but the fact that I'm a hot sexy beast means other people take photos of me and post it online. Even though I actively stay away from Facebook and other
  • by improfane (855034) on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:39AM (#37068130) Journal

    I predicted this a while back [slashdot.org].

    Just remember, if you have strong views and opinions. Then you post about them on your Facebook. You are a ridiculously easy target to find. They are catalogued forever and for the rest of your life. If political correctness changes (and it will) then you could find yourself in a situation where you have done things that now the general public believes is abhorable. You are suddenly the target.

    Just go to YourOpenBook.org [youropenbook.org] and search

    • not racist but
    • boss
    • slept with
    • laid
    • the prophet

    Incriminating huh? I can find people of any faith/religion or political motivation or even recent transgressions. Who they've slept with, what they believe etc. Whether or not they hate their boss. Ironically you need to execute Javascript from Facebook.com so they could in theory track your searches. So now we can track the people who are looking for people to persecute and we can use it to persecute. Nothing can possibly go wrong!
    What's to stop someone from searching for your minority opinion and silencing you?

    If that's not enough, there are plenty of reasons [slashdot.org] why you should quit.

    • "Last night is slept with my boss's daughter...im such a lucky bustard " (female)

      "4# I slept with my bestfriends girlfriend cos I wanted to get one over on him :) " (male)

      "OMG! X X has just admitted that she has slept with a vicar! What a disgrace!!! " (female)

      "wen u kod me a hure(bitch) u 4gt that the last tym i slept with ur father thats wen he sprayd the sour u in ma womb...watch ur mouth... " (male)

      The last one confuses me. I am guessing that some of these are just rumours but that doesn't mean people

  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:40AM (#37068142) Homepage

    How is it "taking a toll on privacy" to collect data on people's behavior IN PUBLIC PLACES?
    And when they catch someone doing something illegal - e.g. rioting, murder, mayhem - how is it any worse - from a "privacy" perspective - to use facial recognition to determine the person's identity?
    Isn't the summary just knee-jerk anti-authority hype?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How is it "taking a toll on privacy" to collect data on people's behavior IN PUBLIC PLACES?

      It also records the times when you entered and left private property. They can follow a person from the time he/she left his/her appartment all the way while they travel to their favourite sex-shop.
      Not a big deal perhaps, unless you live next to the camera operator and he/she has a grudge against you for some reason.

      Also, try to collect data on a policemans behavior in public places and you will see how public it really is.

    • Because people actually live in public places. Stalking is an invasion while just walking behind somebody for a short while is not. Seeing someone in public is something totally different than collecting every public presence and store the data. Always-on cameras ARE an invasion to privacy.
    • by rufty_tufty (888596) on Friday August 12, 2011 @11:02AM (#37068424) Homepage

      Easy, because this is a complex issue. To over simplify:
      Most people seem to have no problem with using all the technology at their disposal to catch these rioters. This includes CCTV, face recognition etc.
      Next time there is a problem they can say "well we used this technology before." Then you get feature creep where they use it for every crime. Then they use it for suspicion of a crime. Next thing it's police principle to pull people over because the face recognition software thought they looked like someone who dropped a piece of litter three months back.
      You might even argue this is acceptable, but the worry for me is how do I defend against the accusation? I have no evidence for my innocence except the CCTV that I have access to. It might be public CCTV cameras but if only the police have access then you can imagine a corrupt officer could frame trouble makers with relative ease. Or at least select amoungst the guilty to target his favourite pressure group.
      You might be fine with all of this and say I'm worrying over nothing and I might be, but the only thing that would make me 100% comfortable with this is if the public CCTV cameras' records were publicly available so that we all could defend ourselves. more than that I'd want access to CCTV of the police investigating their case against me.
      But I don't see any of that happening.
      So do I have a problem with this at the moment? No. But as the old saying goes, first they came after the Jews, but I wasn't a Jew so did nothing; then they came after the gays, etc.. Then they came after me and there was no-one left. You have to stop these things before they get to the point whereby they come after you.
      What has worried me about these riots if what happens if we in the UK ever had to violently overthrow a corrupt government? What happens if democracy stops working. If I understand the US, then the second amendment was partially intended to allow the citizens to get rid of a corrupt government; too many of these tools that are only in the hand of the government is a worrying scenario.

      • by improfane (855034)

        Unfortunately I've used all my mod points. Your post is spot on.

        Our government *is* corrupt. Case in point; the Digital Economies Bill and Peter Mandelson.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yes, cameras are just like hauling people off and gassing them.

        It's an appeal to emotion fallacy to make the slippery slope fallacy seem legit.
        If you need to overthrown the government, then you do it in mass. Cameras can't STOP you, then can only be used to find out you did it, and if you change the government, then who cares what's on 'tape'?

      • You might be fine with all of this and say I'm worrying over nothing and I might be, but the only thing that would make me 100% comfortable with this is if the public CCTV cameras' records were publicly available so that we all could defend ourselves.

        Fortunately, they are (kind of). I don't remember the name of the show (anyone know?) but some years ago there was a comedy series that involved the creator going in to shops, stores, etc and making a fool of himself. The astonished onlookers reactions were bei

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Benefits to who and costs to who? Frequently those are differing "who"'s with differing amounts of political power.

          Don't expect this to self-correct without a lot of public pressure. Even that might be optimistic.

          I don't really know about Britain, but in the US we seem to have been on a one-way trip towards a dictatorship since Nixon. What Nixon got impeached for wouldn't even make headlines today.

      • by JosKarith (757063)
        In theory you can submit a FOI request for footage of an incident, or of a certain time. In practice the footage is "unavailable" or "destroyed" just before you made the request.
        Mark Thomas did a series of programs on this - he'd take a Morris dancing team and get them to dance up and down in front of a building with CCTV for an hour, then put in a FOI request a week or so later. The number of cases where they "couldn't find the particular piece of footage" was shocking.
      • "But I don't see any of that happening."

        First of all: In the U.S. for sure, and I assume also in UK, every criminal defendant has a right to be confronted with the evidence against him. So an erroneous facial recognition decision could be challenged at trial, before a jury of your peers.

        Second: Rather than comparing the camera system to a hypothetical dystopian vision for the camera system, let's compare it to the justice system we have had for the previous 100,000+ years since we evolved. In the old sy

      • Many of your concerns can be addressed by having CCTV data not running directly to police, rather handled by court (like search warrants) or a similar independent institution, where citizens can have a right to access all the recordings where they are present.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Because of the collecting?

  • Clearly the rioters forgot to wear their Guy Fawkes masks.

  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:46AM (#37068216) Journal

    If you make a Facebook account and upload a pic of a rioter who is also on Facebook, wouldn't they be auto-tagged?

  • May I present the latest in facial recognition software defense [amazon.com]. The $0.25 solution.

    • I present a comparably cheap [amazon.com] but better solution as it allows you to both hide and distort facial features. Another option would be to use a paper mask as you could put what ever face you wanted on it and frame someone else since we all know pictures never lie.
  • Surveillance state (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fuzzums (250400) on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:59AM (#37068366) Homepage

    Well. One thing 5000 cameras DIDN'T do is stop people from looting.

    • by MadKeithV (102058) on Friday August 12, 2011 @11:23AM (#37068750)

      Well. One thing 5000 cameras DIDN'T do is stop people from looting.

      Next time they should obviously begin by looting the cameras.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      Yup, so I call the cameras, etc. "failed". The idea of security is to prevent something from happening - not cleaning up the mess after it happened.

      • by DrXym (126579)

        Yup, so I call the cameras, etc. "failed". The idea of security is to prevent something from happening - not cleaning up the mess after it happened.

        Right, so logging is completely useless on websites and triggers are completely useless on databases and checksums are completely useless on files?

        After all none of these things would prevent someone busting into your site or using it inappropriately. They sure as hell might help you figure out when the breakin occurred though, figure out what was touched, which route the attacker took to get in and possibly reveal enough information to find the attacker was and prove it in court.

        It's called security in

    • by DrXym (126579)

      Well. One thing 5000 cameras DIDN'T do is stop people from looting.

      No, but I bet they let the police know where trouble was occurring and more rapidly respond to it. I also bet that when they did arrest people the CCTV footage would make for very strong evidence that could secure a conviction.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      That's a job for overwhelming physical force to interdict and disrupt the mob BEFORE it gets momentum.

      This is an entertaining demonstration that government will NOT protect honest citizens. The three men were killed with a car while trying to peacefully protect their area from rioters, or the fellow who just died in hospital after being beaten for trying to stop rioters setting fire to rubbish bins, are what you get when rioting is seen as acceptable by government.

      Rioters should be met with overwhelming les

  • I expect the police have a large collection of mugshots to work off, and lots of high and low quality pictures of looters in action, plus random pics taken in and around the time of the crimes. So why not cross reference one set of pics to the other and see what matches come up? It might certainly provide leads that let them track someone done. They'd still have to prove it in court of course.
  • Take images of something so people can look at it after the fact.

    The value of the cameras will be prosecution.

    Cameras aren't an issue. Who they are implanted, the laws, and the response people can make against them are.

  • Are all those cameras effective, or just taking a toll on privacy without bringing added security?

    Well, they didn't prevent the rioting and looting, so they obviously weren't contributing to security, just enabling punishment after the fact.

    The only way to get security is to take the responsibility on yourself - this sort of thing probably wouldn't get far in my neighborhood, because my neighbors and I are willing (and able) to to protect ourselves (we'd be in our front yards with rifles & shotguns, most likely).

    • by couchslug (175151)

      The NRA has documented the effectiveness of armed citizens in LA when the beasts rioted.

      If you have to, prepare expedient firing positions and have some cover handy so you won't be a standing target. Conduct military operations professionally and you will take fewer losses.

  • Make the sale and possession of hooded shirts illegal.

If a thing's worth having, it's worth cheating for. -- W.C. Fields

Working...