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The London Riots and Facial Recognition Technology 482

nonprofiteer writes "A bunch of vigilantes are organizing a Google Group dedicated to using recently revealed facial recognition tools to identify looters in the London riots. While Vancouver discussed doing something similar after the Stanley Cup riots, the city never actually moved forward on it. Ring of Steel London, though, is far more likely to incorporate FRT into its investigative work." A related article points out how development of face-recognition technology has been kept under wraps by some organizations, but we're getting to the point where it'll soon be ubiquitous.
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The London Riots and Facial Recognition Technology

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  • Anti camera tech (Score:5, Interesting)

    by irp ( 260932 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @02:38AM (#37041006)

    Reminds me: Somewhere on the internet is a description of how to build an anti-camera cap. Basically a baseball cap with a battery, and a row of powerful IR emitters along the rim. It utilizes that most security cameras can see into the IR, so the camera will gain down and leave the face in darkness, or at least distort it enough to nullify automated face recognition. Can be used during transport, where wearing a cap is not as suspicious as covering the face. ... Or will it soon be so that anyone not instantly recognized will automatically be a suspect? :-)

  • by tftp ( 111690 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @02:55AM (#37041084) Homepage

    After the dust settles I'm sure only the people caught in the process of rioting will be prosecuted. Even if a camera records a man running into the store, grabbing something and running out, and even if that man is uniquely identified, he can always claim that someone forced him to do that, threatening him with a knife. In a quiet situation this lie can be untangled, evidence found, witnesses questioned, etc. etc. However in *this* mess it is impossible to prove or disprove the story, even though it is obviously a lie through and through. But you can't convict based on "obvious" things; you convict based on proven facts. Besides, the police already has about a thousand of rioters caught red-handed. They don't need more; they can't even find enough jail cells.

  • by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @02:56AM (#37041090)
    Inflation is 4% for the rich, and 40% for the poor - might have a bearing on it. Plus the fact that the banks and insurance companies, utilities, etc are allowed to thieve from poor people while the government makes statements about "disapproving" but does not actually stop them, and the police keep being caught lying and cheating..
  • Smartwater (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @03:10AM (#37041140)

    I was just in the UK and in some of the suburbs in London there were signs up about SmartWater [] being used in the area. I think it was just being used to tag property but some of the other applications there seem interesting.
    In a riot-like situation where there are too many people to feasibly make significant arrests it seems like it would be useful to have a way of "tagging" them and then pull them more of them in in the subsequent days.
    A week ago I was also in Nottingham and walked past a police station was firebombed yesterday []. When in Fulham I twice took my 9 month old baby to the swimming pool at Normand Park []. I didn't perceive any sort of tension while I was there and it seems like the whole place just went mad between me getting on and off a plane back to Australia.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @03:29AM (#37041222)

    This is the reason more than all the other stupid shit I've heard bandied about.

    The whole think has been in the making for years.

    From the BBC

    "He said youths aged from nine had been on the rampage through the city centre."

    "When the BBC asked two youths why they were rioting, one responded: "Right, why are you going to miss the opportunity to get free stuff that's worth like loads of money?"

    "The BBC's Chris Buckler watched police try to manage masked youths in Manchester
    But they said it was not just about that, adding that it was in response to the government cuts."

    Bullshit, they're 9 FFS, they're nothing more than thugs

    "One added: "How many people have they arrested really, though, 10? I'm not really bothered. I'll keep doing this every day until I get caught."
    He said he might be shouted at or grounded when he returned home but he would "live with that".
    He added that it would be his first offence "so I'm not really bothered"

      If you want to stop it, do what you should of been doing for the last 20 years or so, and did to my generation.

    When he gets home, give him a damn good thrashing and take him to the police station.

  • by webmistressrachel ( 903577 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @04:13AM (#37041392) Journal

    I just spent an evening embedded with indie journalists in Manchester. It's definitely at least two-thirds white.

    And there's more to it than "mindless violence" too. The train station here, just a few hundred metres from one main flashpoint (Piccadilly Gardens), it fucking immaculate. I was in there at 5am this morning insisting that Network Rail put in an official statement to that effect. I hope they do.

    They said themselves that last time there was disorder in Manchester (caused by a certain Scottish football team) Piccadilly Train Station was, to put it bluntly, completely ruined.

    I saw all kinds of colours and themes of clothing; wierdos with cameras being ignored in favour of fasion shop windows. Most people stood around to bolster numbers, and those smashing windows are NOT those looting. The looters come after, and the are primarily white trash but I saw one Asian guy who was abusive to our photographers taking a whole glass shop counter in a van using a trolley.

    "It's mine. You got a problem with that?"

  • by rbrausse ( 1319883 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @04:14AM (#37041394)

    You people without a perspective and treated as second class citizens do not accept the state as their institution. They perceive the state as their enemy. [..] People get even more suppressed (at least they feel that way) which can erupt at any time.

    slightly off-topic. this msnbc blog entry [] shows some interesting insight in the dynamics of the group:

    a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

    "Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you?"

    The TV reporter from Britain's ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. "Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you."

  • Re:Anti camera tech (Score:5, Interesting)

    by webmistressrachel ( 903577 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @04:33AM (#37041464) Journal

    No, our police are wayto soft and stupid for that on this occasion.

    Don't worry, I'll qualify this, I'm not trolling tonight, I'm deadly serious.

    For years I've been filming and photographing peaceful demos here in Manchester (where it kicked off last night). When it was hippies, Green Party Comrades, and slightly biased press (count me in!), they used pyschological tactics like kettling, horse-trampling, and good planning, because we announce where we going and why well in advance (in accordance with our new Anti-Terrorist laws for peaceful protests - yes you read that right)

    They had uniform photographers which were highly visible, and others cleverly hidden on roofs and in windows nearby. These guys were shooting top-end Canons with long 500mm lenses, yes I did chat to a few and they were specialists, not bobbies showing off nice SLRs to scare us.

    Last night nothing like that was in evidence at all. They were charging anybody and everybody in their way (including me and other indie and staff journos hefting my SLRs), herding crowds of non-violent protesters along with the thugs, whilst completely ignoring looters. The above post just isn't accurate at all, and if anything they fought a losing battle again.

    The BBC are totally in their pocket - [] - it's the only way they can avoid having their cameras nicked. Our (indie) stuff isn't being broadcast anywhere yet, and the youths aren't bothering us, they're giving us a great show! A lot of them WANT to be photographed grinning. And a lot of them can articulate their political views very intelligently. And they're not copypasta ' ing each other either, they each have their own particular reasoning. They're human beings.

    And on that note, I must relay a personal experience of mine last night. Staring down the eyepiece of a camera, I made eye contact with a "Robocop" riot officer looking at my camera and then rapidly side to side, and then at the camera again. I nearly cried, and I removed the camera from between with us and just bonded with him for a few seconds.

    Nobody should be mixed up in a all this. "Them" or "Us" alike. Those police can end this right now by turning around, and enforcing the people's will on those who have caused these problems, since, well whenever. Those with the boot on the face of humanity.

  • Re:Anti camera tech (Score:5, Interesting)

    by webmistressrachel ( 903577 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @04:44AM (#37041502) Journal

    I didn't explain that beautiful moment properly, I didn't do him justice.

    Despite all that armour, the weaponry, and his comrades flanking him, that officer in that moment was scared, scared of me, scared of the camera, scared of the idea (speculation begins) that maybe, just maybe they shouldn't be there and neither should we, and we both knew the reasons underlying it all.

    Sharing that moment with him, and him seeing my expression and reaction, and the solid eye contact and mutual tears welling that ensued after I put my camera down from my face, has changed me forever. I can now view "the pigs" in a completely different light to my usual trolling self... I'm usually the first to slag authority and especially enforcement of same.

    They bleed the same. I saw it last night. Thanks for listening, I had to get that out. Some of them are "jobsworths", some bullies, but not all. Remember that next time you hurl abuse at a police line. They could be our comrades come the Revolution. I saw that possibility tonight.

    I'm going to bed, 24 hours awake now.

  • by Hazel Bergeron ( 2015538 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @05:06AM (#37041578) Journal

    Mod parent up. When people are out of "civilised" ways to put across their message, they resort to violence. This isn't violence with a direct aim - e.g. as the violence by the US in the Middle East is subjugation of strategically important areas - this is violence as a way of saying "I'm fed up and someone to take notice!" If you loved your society, you wouldn't destroy it. If, as a young man (or teen, it seems), you do not feel a sense of belonging and love and support - if you are not given the opportunity to contribute - then why would you value what is around you?

    The looters coming in after the riots are being emphasised because it's pretty hard to argue about the social plight of someone who runs off with a 42 inch TV "because I can". There is a massive PR exercise to paint this as merely thieves thieving. There's also a PC exercise to avoid pointing out the cultural make-up of rioters - predominantly black in some areas, white in others - because people are so afraid of thinking they're implying "black people are criminals!" rather than "youths in black communities in central London are alienated and have no voice, no meaningful representation and no opportunity to do anything about it". We have moved on from overt police racism of the '80s (and well done to the police for doing that) but we have not moved on from the power dominance of a single culture in Britain.

    Unfortunately, in any class struggle (sorry, Torys, that's exactly what it is!), these sorts of organic riots tend to result in more oppression. It may do something to raise awareness, but absent an organised army it is only joint peaceful action which tends to effect change. In particular, had the unions not been so far up New Labour's arse over the last decade that the wider working population would be forgiven for remembering who they were created to serve, they would have opposed changing market and labour conditions.

    In short, it still takes a village to raise a child. Even the most stable and loving family (which, as anyone knows, inner London is full of) can only do so much. When the average boy turns 16 - and we're not talking about the geniuses of the world, but the majority of average ability - society has the choice to lift him up or to leave him to fend on his own. Where resources exceed demand, he might be able to do the latter. Where they do not, what should he endure? And, if you have not helped him, what gives you the right to tell him what is right and wrong? Even if you think you have some natural superiority, what makes you think the young man will listen?

  • by LizardKing ( 5245 ) on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @07:30AM (#37042272)
    I've no mod points, but as someone who has lived all over London (New Cross, Waterloo, Hampstead and now Enfield) I couldn't agree more. This is not about police brutality, over use of stop and search tactics or lack of opportunity. This is about feckless scum who want a new pair of trainers. If this was about a lack of opportunity, then why have huge numbers of Eastern Europeans managed to find jobs in London over the past decade? And it isn't about them taking jobs at lower wages than British born people, as many of the immigrants have gone from planning on being here for a few years before returning home to having established careers and businesses that are so successful that they now plan on staying here permanently.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @07:32AM (#37042278)

    That's an indictment of the press, nothing more.

    I live in Clapham Junction about 100m from the center of the riots there. I was down there there watching. Most of the kids (and they were kids) were having a great time, throwing bottle and having a laugh - I didn't see anyone I'd describe as angry.

    All night people were wandering up my street stashing loot in rubbish bins, then coming back later to collect and load into cars that were doing the rounds. Nice cars, bit boy-racerish for me but not cheap. The ones that were seen "stealing milk and baby clothes" were no more significant than the ones stealing shampoo - there are cases of it on my street - and I suspect they were just a little late to the party. A friends sister saw her neighbours kids walking home with a TV each - a 2 bedroom house on that street will go for £400,000.

    Yes, there's undoubtedly some alienation but there bigger problem is the unwarranted sense of entitlement - "I deserve a TV", "I'm getting my taxes back". As a genuine guardian reading, hand-wringing socialist leftie I didn't see a great deal of urban alienation on display, but I did see a great deal of self-absorbed greed.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday August 10, 2011 @08:42AM (#37042766) Homepage Journal

    Yeah because of course our cops do that don't they, they open up on crowds. Oh wait no they don't, in fact they've not to this point even deployed baton rounds, or water cannons.

    It's only a matter of time. Wish I were wrong, don't think I am. Time will tell.

    I'm fucking glad we don't have your retarded gun nuttery, because for all the benefits you think it gives you, all you've really got to show for it are a whole bunch of pretty fucking embrassing crime statistics.

    First of all, our retarded gun nuttery is your retarded gun nuttery, because we inherited it from you. You have simply outlawed it, with the effect that only criminals have guns. Second, gun crime has been waning in the USA in spite of generally permissive firearms laws. The only kind of gun crime which is actually on the rise in the USA is suicide. Suicide is on the rise pretty much everywhere, and we just happen to have guns to do it with. Aside from making things messier, this is really not a problem. So while gun suicide is on the rise, gun deaths are falling overall, suggesting that we have a handle on the problem.

    But keep telling yourself your country is perfect, and you're so incredibly free, and that Britain is so much worse.

    Nah, the USA and Britain are just two sides on the same die. On the other hand, your culture is provably less free than ours. I mean fuck, the truth is not a defense in a libel case? How are you not seriously more fucked up than the USA?

    Anyway, one more thing upon which time will tell; your country is totally played out. You're out of natural resources and useful allies. All there is left is to fight each other for the scraps. Without projecting imperialism as the USA is doing you have no future except as just another soon-to-be-homogenized member of the EU. That's a good thing for the world but not for your quality of life.

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.