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?