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back to article Britain's passport and ID service seeks facial recog tech suppliers

The Home Office plans to spend up to £16m on facial recognition technology for the Identity and Passport Service. A tender notice in the European Union's Official Journal (OJEU) popped up this week that showed that Theresa May's department was now on the hunt for providers of a Facial Recognition Engine and a Facial Recognition …

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Bronze badge

The trouble is that by the time discussions have taken place, security technologies will have moved on so swiftly that the specifications might be of historical importance?

Maybe a better way is to involve prospective bidders in a security arrangement that may be rolled out into other government departments and for the security arrangements to be reasonably robust at the time of implementation?

It may be an advantage to have the prospective bidders on the planning board to begin with rather than purchasing a service over the counter with non-involvement other than supplier? ('eerz yer software loov - were off nah)

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Meh

Well that might work.

If it's just comparing the face in front of the camera against an earlier one on record then it might do a reasonable job. The problem comes when trying to compare a random face against a large dataset. Then you will run into the problem of trying to keep false positives at a reasonable level without introducing false negatives. The problem is still not close to being solved for large datasets (e.g. a country and all previous visitors.) Indeed, humans would have a problem even if we could remember 70 millions peoples' faces. Some people just look quite alike. It isn't much of a problem for us at the minute as we only remember a few thousand faces but if we could scale our memory up we'd run into the same problem.

Some companies were trying to flog this stuff at a Retail expo the other day and it worked a treat but that was with only a small number of faces.

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Re: Well that might work.

Not aware of the specifics of this technology, but I suspect it won't be given free-reign over the vetting process. If the software can automatically search against thousands of blacklisted faces, even if it comes up with false positives they will be relatively easily dismissed by a human operator, and it would increase the effectiveness of the human operator as they won't have to remember what thousands of the bad-uns look like.

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Unhappy

Re: Well that might work. But it probably won't.

So what happened to the facial recognition scanners at (for example) Birmingham airport? Why are the bunglers of government spending more money to develop a tech solution, when (evidently) both facial recognition and iris scanners installed already aren't good enough? If you keep buying new ones, does it eventually work by pure chance?

Groundhog day at the Borders Agency, it would seem.

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Bronze badge

Re: Well that might work.

"...even if it comes up with false positives they will be relatively easily dismissed by a human operator,"

However the costs of the project will be justified by loads of job cuts, so there will be very few (if any) human operators. And these few will be at the lowest level of staff they can possibly manage, so people on about £14-18k pa

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Re: Well that might work.

>search against thousands of blacklisted faces

I think that's a bit old fashioned

Today, wouldn't it be comparing them against 1000s of brown listed faces before deciding they are all automatically terrrorists and excluding them

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Bronze badge

Re: Well that might work.

Naw, old fashioned is an old lady pointing her finger and screeching

"That's 'im, officer! I see'd 'im!"

How many biddy's might be usefully (and comfortably far away from the public's eardrums) employed perusing TV screens?

Technology update: Make them Shanghai call-centre workers, why not? It's only security.

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TRT
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FAIL

The IPS...

are a bunch of tossers. They sent me a letter last week because I'd accidentally ticked the box for returning supporting documents by recorded post, even though in a later phone call to clarify, it turned out there WERE no supporting documents required. Bad design of form. That box should come with a checklist at the end of the form and the system should be able to recognise that there were no special documents included with the application. Next the letter claimed they were exceptionally busy from 9-1 weekdays and saturdays so try to call outside those times, and that they run a 24/7 service. Odd, I thought, 24/7? Still that's what it says. Phoned the number... "...only open during office hours 9-5 weekdays and saturdays. Please leave a number and we will call you back as soon as an agent is available."

Some strange new use of the phrase 24/7 service that I was previously unaware of...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The IPS...

24/7 refers to the number of staff and the number of phones respectively.

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Often no discouragement from staff is required

"leading to staff discouraging travelers from using e-Gates."

Often no discouragement from staff is required

Its often the case that users i.e. Me choose not to to use the E-Gates, due to the delays caused by the system

A quick look a the 2 queues will indicate the quicker option even when the manned queue is many times the length of the e-gate queues

In addition to the long recognition time - the inter user gap seems to be inordinately long for a computer based system

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Silver badge

Re: Often no discouragement from staff is required

I've used them at UK and Netherlands airports without much difficulty or much delay. The ones at Stanstead seemed never to find my face unless I crouched down by 5 inches, and the ones at Birmingham I have to stand closer than they suggest, but that apart it all seems to work.

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Facepalm

If the current scanners at Heathrow are anything to go by

they fail miserably if I haven't shaved in a few days. I've given up trying to use them.

These new ones will have to be able to differentiate between identical twins. That in itself is not easy.

I see another good intention on the part of the Government failing miserably. At least 16M squid is nowhere near the billions squandered on IT projects in any year.

The budget should also limit the range of possible scope creep but I wouldn't put it past the un-civil service to gold plate everything in sight.

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WTF?

Never used the E-Gates, but I've used IRIS, it was bloody marvellous, walk in, look at screen, gate opens... no need for passports to even leave my jacket....

Unfortunately now I have kids I can't use it, but it was a very good system, saved like 10-15 minutes when arriving at heathrow...

I don't get why we don't just mandate IRIS for all passports, expand the places you can go to be scanned its not a hard process to do, sit down and look into camera... the tech has improved a lot since I signed up years ago...

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Unhappy

IRIS is dead... the e-gates are the replacement.

Main issue with IRIS was that you needed a special appointment to get the scan. The level of detail needed to identify you from the full list of users wouldn't be in the normal photo. The new gates should be better since they read your passport too, but I've yet to hear anyone not have the same issue as the above posters. (Haven't got a biometric passport yet myself)

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Silver badge
FAIL

Unfortunately, there are some are some counter-flows in UK government

At one time, some time ago, consulates and embassies actually did something to justify their existence like processing passports. Now, in an effort to reduce passport issuance costs - but not deployed diplomatic staff levels - passports are processed in various world regional centres, prior to the documents being forwarded to the UK for actual passport manufacture/issuance.

The next stage is supposed to be the complete process is handled entirely within the UK with the present outposts being retired.

This means that passport issuance will often occur when thousands of miles separate the applicant from the issuing office.

When I renewed my passport a couple of years ago, having been out of the UK continuously for 40 years, I, once again, used the same picture as five years before, just skillfully aged by a Photoshop craftsman, and with facial hair added and a few tweaks about the eyes/eyebrows. Not one official verified anything about me in person!

'Mad Hatter' MAY is besotted with technology. Technically minded people know that the more 'machines' and the fewer people involved the greater the increase in failure.

Take telephone 'Blueboxing'. Forty years ago practitioners had to know how to use operator phraseology convincingly but as automation increased so did the ease of placing fraudulent calls. The only thing that has changed of late is the alternative 'free' technologies such as VOIP.

The ever-crazy MAY thinks technology is the answer to spying on everyone is a multi-billion Pound 'toy' for GCHQ which already dated with the introduction of Silent Circle which costs USD$20/month - well within terrorists budgets.

China, with blanket CCTV coverage, and minimal civil rights, with detailed ID cards with biometrics, still has trouble actually locating/tracking people. Identification technologies might be good in ideal circumstances but in real, every day life, there is, thankfully, much to be desired - .far too many false 'hits'

Next time you bump into an eye scanner, cross your eyes or wear heavy framed eyeglasses. The finger print scanners really 'love' you pushing hard on the sensors.

But the civil servants will convince themselves things are safe until the next 'incident' occurs (an airline expression). Then they will buy more high-tech junk and the farce will repeat.

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Gold badge
Big Brother

Re: Unfortunately, there are some are some counter-flows in UK government

"China, with blanket CCTV coverage, and minimal civil rights, with detailed ID cards with biometrics, still has trouble actually locating/tracking people. Identification technologies might be good in ideal circumstances but in real, every day life, there is, thankfully, much to be desired - .far too many false 'hits'"

You appear to think this is a defect of the system.

There seem plenty of (high level) UK civil servants who either don't understand this or do understand this and simply don't care. In their view better 99 innocents go in the bag than 1 guilty person escapes.

A view they share with some other historical figures.

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Bronze badge

hee hee

Quote

In their view better 99 innocents go in the bag than 1 guilty person escapes.

unquote

My neighbour's dog is like that.

It barks at neighbours and keeps quiet when the burglars are about.

(Hmmm I wonder if there is an association?)

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