back to article ICO to probe facial recog amid concerns UK cops can't shake their love for unregulated creepy tech

The UK's data protection watchdog is investigating cops' use of facial recognition technology amid growing concerns about efficacy and ethics. The tech is used by a number of forces in the UK, often during high-profile public events like Notting Hill Carnival or sports matches – but with limited success: An FoI request …

  1. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Flame

    Sounds like modern day Bertillionage

    will we see phrenology and astrology making a comeback too ? Bet I could get a grant for it.

  2. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Significant effort and investment to make it work consistently

    Do this AFTER a proper public debate and a solid set of ethical rules are arrived at.

  3. Barrie Shepherd

    Re: Significant effort and investment to make it work consistently

    "Do this AFTER a proper public debate and a solid set of ethical rules are arrived at."

    Snowballs chance in hell that that will happen!

  4. Barrie Shepherd

    Re: Significant effort and investment to make it work consistently

    "Do this AFTER a proper public debate and a solid set of ethical rules are arrived at."

    Snowballs chance in hell of that happening

  5. Ledswinger Silver badge

    Re: Significant effort and investment to make it work consistently

    Do this AFTER a proper public debate and a solid set of ethical rules are arrived at.

    Why would they need either, when they've successfully carpeted the UK with ANPR cameras? A quick look couldn't find how many are now operating as part of the national network, but round my way all A roads are covered, and they've even got multiple coverage of some B roads, so I'd hazard a guess that nationally there's perhaps 30,000 (not including "enrolled" cameras of private CCTV or other public sector bodies, like the Highways Agency). As any fule noes, the ANPR system hasn't made a jot of difference to the distribution of drugs, or the ability of organised criminals to conduct business.

    So, with ANPR, we have (1) big cost, (2) no debate or informed consent by the public, (3) it isn't terribly effective - but (4) they've done it anyway. I suspect facial recognition will follow the same four step model. And sooner or later, some senior Plod will propose what a fantastic idea it would be to build a National Facial Recognition Data Centre, just like they've done with ANPR.

  6. HashimFromSheffield

    Re: Significant effort and investment to make it work consistently

    I liked the second one better.

  7. keith_w
    Big Brother

    Just chip everyone, no need to worry about false positives, or too many faces to process.

  8. Big John Silver badge

    Baby steps.

  9. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    Hackers

    Oh the day when the system churns out every single positive as being a member of the Cabinet.

  10. Big John Silver badge

    Re: Hackers

    Such a govt. run surveillance system is sure to have a govt. curated (secret) list of persons "To be ignored." Kind of a 'git ignore' file if you will. ;-/

    Subvert that list, or more properly, invert it, and you get your wish.

  11. DougS Silver badge

    How long before someone is killed by this?

    Imagine using facial recognition tech in a crowd, and getting a false positive on some highly dangerous wanted person like a terrorist suspect. That person is followed by CCTV cameras getting into a car, and driving to a house. Your house. The police bust in, guns blazing (OK this part is probably a lot more likely in the US than the UK) and you get shot dead in the confusion.

    All because a poorly design system had mistaken you for someone else, and led police to your door.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: How long before someone is killed by this?

    Already happened when using a human to identify suspects.

    The Met responded by attacking the victim in a massive press offensive, and finally, once they had been found guilty of gross negligence under the H&SaWA, promoted the officer responsible for the "Unlawful killing" of Jean Charles de Menezes as far as is possible to do.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too complicated

    They should use existing technology and tried and true techniques that have been proven to be effective.

    Just dig through social media data to single out "problematic" citizens and force them to wear an identifying marker on their outer clothing that uses a color that stands out in poor light (such as yellow perhaps)

    Oh, wait

  14. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    but that simply kicked the can down the road, offering a vague pledge to update codes of practice on AFR "before it is widely adopted".

    That depends UK adoption or worldwide adoption. Worldwide, it already covers population sets several times the size of the UK including different demographic/racial profiles. Granted it is the usual "democratic suspects" like China, Russia, North Korea, etc.

    It is already clear what it does and what are the actual risks.

    While Chinese are not disclosing the stats off their AFR, the Moscow mayor has been parading the results from covering the subway and the public transport to all and sundry as a part of trying to get funds for full coverage. In fact it was used extensively during the World cup and it is one of the reasons why that event did not see the usual Subway rate of pickpocketing and petty crime.

    So it is not necessary to await representative UK coverage - we can already see exactly how it is being used including the repressive side of it (if you wonder how they manage to round up "trouble" after various demonstrations, that's the answer).

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