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Scotland Yard Confirms It's Using Facial Recognition Tech 85

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?"
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Scotland Yard Confirms It's Using Facial Recognition Tech

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  • 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.
  • Uh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:35AM (#37068086)

    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 Anonymous Coward on Friday August 12, 2011 @10:50AM (#37068272)

    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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

Yet magic and hierarchy arise from the same source, and this source has a null pointer.