back to article Download Festival face scan: You’re right to be annoyed, said UK surveillance commish

Concerns regarding the secret use of facial recognition technology at the recent Download Festival were absolutely spot on, said surveillance camera commissioner Tony Porter, speaking at the Security Twenty 15 conference last week. Leaked by a Police Oracle interview published a week ahead of schedule, and picked up by The …

  1. Duffy Moon

    Today - faces, tomorrow - thoughts

    You know it's only a matter of time before you're imprisoned for thinking about committing a crime, or even just committing a thought crime.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Today - faces, tomorrow - thoughts

      "...or even just committing a thought crime."

      Or even just thinking about committing a thought crime!

      1. Tony S

        Re: Today - faces, tomorrow - thoughts

        Or thinking about something that they later decide should be a crime.

        Hell, let's be honest, they just don't want the proles thinking, full stop. Far too dangerous.

        1. John H Woods

          Re: Today - faces, tomorrow - thoughts

          "Hell, let's be honest, they just don't want the proles thinking, full stop. Far too dangerous." -- Tony S

          "The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable." -- H L Mencken

    2. Llamanaut

      Re: Today - faces, tomorrow - thoughts

      Welcome to Airstrip One!

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Today - faces, tomorrow - thoughts

      Wait a minute, now I'm thinking about you committing a thought crime, does that make me guilty too?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shy Metaller

    "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

    Bet he was really down at the front in the pit

    1. Little Mouse

      Re: Shy Metaller

      "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

      I can't be the only one who thought of Lt Hookstratten:

      "We are such fans of your music and of all your records. I'm not speaking of yours personally, but the whole genre of rock and roll."

    2. Graham Marsden
      Coat

      Re: Shy Metaller

      > "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

      Not "Popular beat combos"?

      1. g e

        Re: Shy Metaller

        They have armadillos in their trousers...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

    I have yet to meet a polis who understands that "fishing expeditions" are wrong.

    When I was at university, "being a student" was justifiable grounds for being the target of illegal police surveillance. Producing the annual student concert earned the producer a file at one of the security organs.

    Downloads, heavy metal, bikes, gangs - sounds like a good opportunity to flesh out the photo album, pick up some bail defaulters......... you get the drift.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

      One of my contacts informs me that these images are called selfies..........

      except somebody else pressed the button. Apparently that is called community policing......

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

      When I was at university, "being a student" was justifiable grounds for being the target of illegal police surveillance

      "Being a student" surely must not be grounds for being targeted. Then again, when I was at university, some of our activities indeed would have been justifiable grounds for being monitored legally by police - and that wasn't for e.g. being a subversive student somewhere in China. The plods didn't, but that was a different time. Also no reason for anon as it's been certainly a long enough time since.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

        @Evil Auditor -

        1. How do you know you weren't targeted?

        2. What makes you think they've destroyed the file?

        3. Were you called Evil Auditor back then?

        1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

          Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

          @Allan George Dyer

          1./2. Don't know for sure but some less careful fellows were and subsequently were questioned by incompetent* plods. No charges ever.

          *incompetent regarding IT matters

          3. I didn't change my identity since then. You probably might have guessed that evil auditor isn't my real name ;)

          Unrelated, a file that probably still exists is with the Scottish police which questioned me over some allegedly sensitive photos I've taken. They still keep a film roll of mine, which they were supposed to return around 10 years ago. I'm looking at you, Aberdeenshire police. Oh well, maybe it wasn't so interesting to look at 36 unexposed frames...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

            And if they return it, what on earth would you do with it?

            1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

              Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

              That's not the question - they promised to send it back! And if you can't trust the plods, whom in the world could you trust?!

              Seriously, there's a reason why they got an empty film ;-) And after 10 years, with a brief exception having lived all outside the UK, might be getting a bit difficult to link the address they have to me today.

    3. Fibbles

      Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

      The odd thing is, apart from occasional recreational drug use, heavy metal fans and students are generally very law abiding groups*. They're not, at least in my experience, the sort of people you catch starting fights in pubs or burgling houses.

      *YMMV with biker gangs.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

        >heavy metal fans ... are generally very law abiding groups*.

        But they are obviously likely targets for radicalisation by Islamic fundamentalists.

        How do we know that Slipknot aren't secret jihadists ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Really Stupid People Do Really Stupid Things

          At my fellow AC re: Slipknot being jihadists

          I have a friend who is into his metal and who sports a fairly impressive beard. He was living in a part of town with a significant Muslim population and was asked by a Muslim neighbor if it was a religious beard so I guess some metalists are already at risk of radicalisation. Let's hope the police don't run their footage through Google's image recognition algorithm otherwise my mate is on his way to Guantanamo.

  4. Valeyard

    Peelian principles

    Somewhere between Peel and now, people have forgotten what his principles were for; policing by CONSENT

    To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Peelian principles

      Long time since that was true. The police have often abused their powers, even to the extent of acting against one of their own, eg Stalker being suspended during his 'shoot to kill' investigation into the RUC & MI5. Using the police as hired thugs during the miner's strike also springs to mind, as does the Hillsborough disaster. In all of these cases they weren't acting in the public interest and the level of distrust within the respective communities increased. Why would they care about a bunch of heavy metal fans?

    2. nematoad Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Peelian principles

      Don't worry, there still is "policing by consent".

      The only trouble is the only consent now needed is that of the Home Secretary, and what a beacon of openness and light she is.

      See also:

      Snoopers Charter

  5. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

    The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better. - George Orwell, 1984

    etc...

  6. Crisp Silver badge

    "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

    That surveillance camera commissioner is so detached he doesn't even know which demographic he's been trampling all over.

    1. Valeyard

      Re: "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

      the only demographic that should matter is "innocent members of the public"

      1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

        Re: "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

        @Valeyard

        Nonsense! 10% of the public are always guilty. That is why the Romans used to kill off 10% from time to time: decimation, they called it. Poor understanding of probability, though. If they decimated at random, that would still leave 9% for next time.

        Seriously, not all the public are innocent. But in Britain we prefer the police not to make that too obvious.

        1. Valeyard

          Re: "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

          ok you're right i suppose, maybe not innocent, but definitely innocent until proven guilty at least

          but you have to have a reason to dig for that proof, not go fishing

        2. Richard 34

          Re: Decimated at Random

          @ Primus Secundus Tertius

          >>Poor understanding of probability, though. If they decimated at random, that would still leave 9% for next time.

          Surely not. If they decimated at random that would still leave 10% in the now smaller population.

        3. Sherrie Ludwig

          Re: "I’m told these are heavy metal acts that performed at the festival"

          "that would still leave 9% for the next time." No, it would, on average, still leave 10%. Assume 100 people, of whom 10 are bad. Take away 10 random people. Although both the population and sample sizes are rather small for this, you would have 90 people left, likely 9 of which are bad, which would still be 10%. Statistics are poorly understood by many people, no need to add to it.

  7. Joe 48

    Pointless

    This must have been the most pointless exercise of all time. I can tell without looking at a single face that everyone must have drugs on them. They are going to listen to Slipknot! No way you can do that on drink alone!

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Pointless

      you could say exactly the same about pretty well any of the people who make what passes for the music that is in the Top 40 these days.

      1. Joe 48

        Re: Pointless

        Jeez, I guess I needed to add some extra sarcasm to that post. I'm attempting, and it would appear failing, to be a bit funny.

        I'll get my coat.

  8. MrWibble

    How does facial recognition work on slipknot masks?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whoooooops

    So facial reconstruction surgery is available where?

    BTW Slipknot were, again, brilliant...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Whoooooops

      Slipknot masks as a way to avoid the system? I think I could rock that look.

  10. phear46

    So, at the risk of many downvotes..... I don't get what the problem is?

    Facial recognition software? So? Its not a new thing.... We just used to sit meat bags in front of screens before this. Ya know, to recognize people?

    Saves money if you let a computer do the scanning, rather than a bunch of people. I'm all for it.

    Now.... Where's my mask?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > Saves money if you let a computer do the scanning, rather than a bunch of people. I'm all for it.

      For exactly the same reason that we don't let government departments share data because having meatbags do it provides a natural friction which makes "fishing trips" impractical.

      Try explaining to a speed camera that there were reasonable, extenuating circumstances why you were, at that point in time, slightly over the speed limit, which any normal, reasonable person would understand and let pass.

      Automated systems are not reasonable which is why they attract so much ire from the public.

      You might have a small point of contention if we could be sure that these cameras were just looking for known troublemakers. But I bet your bottom dollar that they're also keeping a record of everyone they saw, where they were and when they were seen. Just for safety you understand.

      1. phear46

        It's all in the context then, the way I see it, they could just be using the software to automatically track targets through all the footage, where I work, we have about 30 cameras and tracking someone through them all is a pain. If I could highlight a person as they walk in, and then just have the software track them automatically, it would save me an incredible amount of time.

        Imagine doing the same, in a crowd of thousands, with hundreds of cameras,over a huge area?

        If they are just recognizing, recording and storing..... To what end? What is the purpose? I literally can't think of anything negative, I'm not defending the police, maybe I've succumbed to the brainwashing, but I really don't see the big deal?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The big deal is...

          That the police should not be hoovering up personally identifiable data on the general public because it is against national data protection policy, that's why the ICO has stepped in. Given the number of data protection infringements admitted to by the police where officers have abused access to police systems for personal reasons and that the police have historically been involved in dubious political intelligence operations against perfectly innocent members of the public I think it's a good thing to keep their powers of surveillance in check.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The problem is...

      You seem to be assuming that if you've nothing to hide then you've nothing to worry about. This is not always the case and I've little doubt that this technology will be used widely by the boys in blue. Having this data stored (and it will be) and linked to other datasets will allow unprecedented levels of intrusion into the lives of us all.

      Speaking as someone who has previously been subjected to random stop and searches for no good reason other than the way I looked I am certain that inferences will be drawn and innocent people will be at risk of guilt by association. Fancy a one way trip to Guantanamo bay anyone?

    3. Captain DaFt

      "Facial recognition software? So? Its not a new thing.... We just used to sit meat bags in front of screens before this. Ya know, to recognize people?"

      People watching security cameras tend to spot people doing wrong things, like starting fights, pickpocketing, sexual assault, etc. and send police to the scene to deal with it.

      Facial recognition software... records and stores faces.

      So if a victim comes forward later, they can be shown a multitude of faces that match their verbal description, and get pressured into picking one, more or less at random.

      Cops are happy either way, as they get to make an arrest.

      So yes, for police, Facial recognition software is cheaper and easier.

    4. Ian 55

      If it's so harmless being tracked everywhere, why do the police and the great and the good get upset at being followed around?

      1. BongoJoe

        You know that site which shows where every flight is at any one time. Wouldn't it be good if there were one which tracked the whereabouts of the current Home Secretary, no matter who it is?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook has advanced Face Recognition technology

    I posted a picture of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (lovely lady BTW) to Facebook.

    Facebook asked me to 'tag' my unknown friend.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its clear from how technology was used at the festival...

    That police only exist to serve the elite and protect them from the public.... OWS, Iraq war protestors...

  13. Tubz

    Soon the Police will just arrest you and have just cause, that you maybe have down something that they deem wrong since birth. Welcome to Mega-City 1, don't p!ss off a judge !

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