British Police Make First Arrest via Facial Recognition Camera Van

British Police Make First Arrest via Facial Recognition Camera Van

In a story that's either a case of camera and computer technology taking a step forward or another nail in the coffin of privacy, the South Wales Police recently arrested a man using a mobile automatic facial recognition (AFR) system deployed in a van.

In speaking to Ars Technica, a police commissioner declined to reveal many specifics about the case, but did say the idea of the AFR is “centered upon early intervention and prompt, positive action,” thereby allowing the police to “identify vulnerability, challenge perpetrators, and reduce instances of offending within environments where the technology is deployed.” The latter is not unlike parking a cruiser near a busy highway to deter drivers from speeding, but of course, the former relies on a high level of public surveillance, as the man's face was seen and identified by a camera attached to a police van that was parked near a major soccer match. 

Of course, catching criminals is a good thing. But a system that can automatically track and identify individuals in public spaces wields tremendous power — power that could also be abused. What do you think? Is this sort of camera technology worth the loss of privacy?

[via Gizmodo]

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19 Comments

In light of recent terror attacks, if this technology could be used to prevent a such an attack then I'm all for it.

Sam Hood's picture

I was just about to say the same, if they had a database of known terror suspects then this would be perfect at major events, etc.

If you have nothing to hide then why would it be a problem, CCTV already catches your every movement so what added loss of privacy is there by introducing a camera that can scan your face? In fact this technology could also help find missing people?

Kian McKellar's picture

Yes but what if this is used by the state to repress things that aren't favored. If we had this technology fifty years ago for instance. Want a system that can identify you if you go into a gay club and automatically notifies all your friends and family? You're only looking at the positive aspects of this technology.

Leif Sikorski's picture

Exactly. Imagine such technology in the hands of east european countries like Russia. It would be horrible.

Sam Hood's picture

Kian I don't live in a communist country so I wouldn't 'fear' things that aren't 'favoured'. Also what's the problem with going to gay clubs, I have plenty of gay friends and I've been clubbing with them many times, they know how to party! If it means saving innocent lives then I couldn't care less.

Sam Hood's picture

BTW most clubs these days already have ID scanning technology, so they already have a database of who visits their clubs.

Kian McKellar's picture

Sorry but I was trying to use an example of what would have happened 50 years ago in the United States where you could get thrown in jail for being gay. Society's definitions of acceptable changes and evolves. Can you imagine them having a database of people who visit gay clubs 50 years ago? How they would have ruined lives? We wouldn't have become better as a society if they could have punished people for what they considered to be wrong.

If you have a driving license, health care, or passport, you are already on a database. Only those with something to hide need to worry, and that is a good thing. It is better to be looking at this technology than looking for it, when it is too late.

Kian McKellar's picture

That logic doesn't address the fact that LGBTQ people had something to hide 50 years ago from the government. If you could address the specific thing I was talking about I would appreciate it.

The state already represses information. Do you really think politicians tell the truth? Sometimes we might be better off not knowing everything that is going on, it might make you even more worried....

Kian McKellar's picture

That goes wildly off topic so I'm not going to fully respond.

They already have databases of known terrorists etc, it is the human factor that causes the issues. Nearly every terrorist case in Europe this year was followed up by " the terrorist was already known to us", but they do not act on it....

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -Benjamin Franklin

Nice quote, but it doesn't apply to this story. A camera mounted to a van doesn't violate anyone's liberties. There is no expectation of privacy anywhere that van can drive. Are you going to throw out an unrelated Franklin quote when it comes to speed trap cameras too? Or police stakeouts? Or store security cameras? Or you photographing people on the street?

Something spoken hundreds of years ago is now basically obsolete.... and those guys were not always right....

Christopher Soule's picture

I think that if you are in a public place, such as in the case of a soccer match, you have NO expectation of privacy. We are fast heading to the world of The Minority Report. Whoever wrote that movie was a prophet and didn't know it.

Rob Mynard's picture

That was Philip K. Dick and I'm pretty sure he knew he was a prophet :-)

creeeepy

I don't see this as slight to liberties, rather another arrow in the quiver for the good guys so to speak, and in a country already long used to heavy surveillance.