Romford is in London, not Essex.
London cops' use of facial recognition tech last week resulted in only one person being charged, while another was handed a £90 on-the-spot fine after trying to avoid the cams. London, UK - March, 2018. Police officers patrolling Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus in central London. Pic Paolo Paradiso / Shutterstock.com …
Ha, that old outer-London-doesn't-count-as-being-in-London thing that over 40s always seem to go on about, even though a lot of them weren't even born when it was shifted into London in 1965.
Note: I'm 41.
Also see: Croydon (London, not Surrey), nearly every single East London town (London not Essex!), and Middlesex (no such place - well for the last 59 years!)
Also also see: postcode wars (no, there's no such thing as a London postcode/postal district!)
The Met's account of the event was that the man "was seen acting suspiciously" and "became aggressive and made threats" to officers after they stopped him. "He was issued with a penalty notice for disorder as a result."
A bitter irony would be that if the cop had a bodycam then it would be very easy to see who's correct....
"Acting suspiciously" is a wonderfully versatile phrase that can be used to harass or detain pretty much anyone within sight as it would seem to rely entirely on the judgement of the officer assessing the situation. No-one is above suspicion although some are more worthy of it than others.
"the Met's Ivan Balhatchet said in a statement that the 'use of the equipment at Romford Town Centre resulted in several arrests for violent offences'.
There's a man with an eye on political office - he'll be right at home with misrepresentation like that. Add into the mix the poorly signposted trial in central London and they're not exactly covering themselves in glory. Starting to feel to me like they are going through the motions before announcing that the trial is a "huge success" and the tech is to be rolled out forthwith. What could possibly go wrong?
Incidentally if I walk around for four months of the year with a scarf covering most of my face, does this leave me open to being fined if I wander through a trial? Was this person simply provoked into a reaction that permitted a barely credible arrest as a 'message'. No scratch that second question, I think I know the answer.
How many arrests would you like to make this trial a success, when they have only used it for a small part of one day!?
I mean, one arrest is a good thing, isn't it?
Or am I missing the point? Are The Reg, and most of your readers, just against the use of this kind of tech per se, or are they suggesting better ways for how it could be tested?
Please be more clear and tell me what to think, as I can't work it out for myself.
Thumbs down button
"Or am I missing the point?"
No, you aren't. That one wanted man (in fact more than one by the sounds of it, as the 15-year old alleged burglar was also caught, even if he was then released) walked past and was apprehended is already surprising. And the trouble is, we don't know how many wanted men walked past the camera without it noticing, but it cannot be that many: there aren't that many wanted men.
So I'd have said that the facial recognition technology seems to work. Now you just need to sort out the stuff around it (for example, regulations, making sure the database is up to date, not fining people who cover their faces, etc.).
The real question is how many people did the system flag as being wanted when they weren't? If the false positive rate is very low, then a high false negative rate can be forgiven in a system like this. If the false positive rate is high, it's worse than worthless.
"The real question is how many people did the system flag as being wanted when they weren't? If the false positive rate is very low, then a high false negative rate can be forgiven in a system like this. If the false positive rate is high, it's worse than worthless."
A high false positive rate doesn't make it worthless at all. 50 to 1 is pretty fine. It means one guy is sitting at the computer: it flashes up a mugshot and a surveillance picture 50 times saying 'Are these the same person?' A hell of a lot better than the current method, which is showing pictures of known criminals around back at the nick and trying to get cops to remember what they look like.
Even a low percentage of false positives - at scale - make any system like this unusable; too much manual effort is required to verify and reject them. And you're going to piss off a whole lot of people.
Also: imagine being stopped by the police without having a 'good' piece of ID like a driving licence in your possession. How long will it take for you to prove to them who you are? All because a computer thinks that you look like a wanted criminal. Feels a lot like guilty until proven innocent to me. A lot.
"A high false positive rate doesn't make it worthless at all"
Yes, it does.
A technology which causes police harrassment of 49 innocents for the arrest of one wanted individual is a class action suit and mass payouts waiting to happen.
This is NOT a police state. Policing is by consent - and taking steps to move to a model where the population get pissed off with the cops is counterproductive.
> I mean, one arrest is a good thing, isn't it? Or am I missing the point?
Yes and no - to both questions.
There were three arrests but two were false positives. Or maybe, in the case of the youth, the system simply highlighted inadequate information sharing by police: he was deemed no longer worthy of arrest but that information was not passed onto those running the trial.
Darren Scott: it would be interesting to know what attempts *if any* had been made to arrest him previously. If he'd evaded numerous previous attempts then this trial might have merit. If the police had made one half-hearted previous attempt, turning up at his house semi-randomly because they happened to have an officer free and in the area at the time, then maybe proceeding to a system whereby every person is subject to face recognition 24 hours a day is a bit over the top.
Lastly the ridiculous over-reaction to a bloke covering his face with his jacket. Just ignore him - it's a trial, not a live system - and such reactions are part of the trial data.
Isn't that going to cause difficulties for lady followers of Judaism# and motorcyclists ?
Of course the police will be culturally sensitive on this matter - I'm sure they aren't going to go all Jeremy Clarkson on bikers.
(Christianity is presumably Judaism++ so the next release should be J#)
To truly evaluate the effectiveness of the facial recognition tech you need several pieces of information:
- How many people were innocent and flagged as not wanted.
- How many people where innocent yet flagged as wanted.
- How many people were wanted and flagged as wanted.
- How many people were wanted but not flagged as wanted
I grant that the final figure is really hard to get, but if it's a trial you should be able to measure all of these to a reasonable degree of accuracy so you can make a meaningful evaluation. If you take it even further, you could look at the amount of police time running the trial and compare it to other methods of finding people of interest. Is having a plod or two or three sitting around all day and make just one arrest a really good use of police resources?
But around here, we know what the public sector is like for undertaking honest & meaningful statistical analysis.
Romford Station has about 24,000 entries and exits per day. That would be about 12,000 unique individuals. There would also be people walking past the station who don't use the train service.
One or two people were recorded on the system as wanted and flagged as wanted, of which one wasn't actually wanted. That is an error in the records fed to the system, not the facial recognition thing.
98% false positive rate, so about 98 people flagged as wanted and not actually wanted, plus the one above that was incorrectly recorded as wanted.
We have no way of knowing how many wanted people it missed.
So.. it would actually be equally effective to put up a fake van and fake camera, avoid all the privacy issues entirely, put up a sign, and watch for people trying to avoid the cameras.
There's a phrase for that, I believe, and it's often used in medical trials. "No more effective than placebo."
Though I have no doubt that the guy trying to cover his face kicked off and thus gave police an excuse to arrest him, I would question why he was approached just for covering his face in the first place, and whether he would have avoided being stopped any longer than strictly necessary and/or being subject to facial recognition if he'd been polite.
Since when is hiding your face to avoid cameras "acting suspiciously"? We are all entitled to be as visible or as invisible as we like in public places, just like we are all allowed to take photos in public places. If I am a private person and don't want to be photographed in public, I cannot stop the photographer taking the photo. But I am certainly entitled to hide my face. It is no different if it is the police taking the photo -- maybe even more so as it is very likely to be much longer lived.
If that was what he was doing, the police had no reason to stop the man. That is the big result from this trial, which must become an important issue in any subsequent analysis of the results: a man was stopped by the police for no reason and questioned. That must not be allowed. There should be no concept of "longer than strictly necessary" -- hiding from the cameras must not be a reason to stop anyone.
"Since when is hiding your face to avoid cameras "acting suspiciously"?"
Since turning and walking when you see a police officer, or running when they shout Stop, or any of a myriad actions (even getting tetchy/sweaty when they do stop you).
It doesn't take a genius to draw an analogy there.
The question is:
- If they are acting suspiciously, are you allowed to stop them on that basis alone. Answer: Yes. Otherwise police work is literally entirely "witnessed crimes" and nothing else.
- If you stop them, are you allowed to hinder them longer than necessary to ascertain their identity, purpose, etc.? Answer: No. Never have been.
- If you stop them and they kick off and breach the peace, can you arrest them? Answer: Yes.
- If they don't, can you arrest them? Only if you have reasonable suspicion that they have committed a crime. Which means that, without anything more than their identity, you have to hope something pops up on the computer? Or that they have a knife or something in their pocket. Then you can arrest them, otherwise no.
Police have the right to stop, search and ascertain your identity. They need almost ZERO reason to do that. It's been clear-cut in just about every developed country for decades, if not centuries. They can't unduly inconvenience you, they can't arrest you for no reason (even "suspicion" for an arrest requires an actual reasonable suspicion with corroborating evidence and a suspicion of a specific charge - e.g. suspicion of burglary of a particular location on a particular date, etc.)
To stop is not to arrest.
To arrest is not to charge.
To charge is not to convict.
They have every reason to stop the man, under the law, for literally anything they like. Whether you agree with that or not, you're several hundred years of the relevant legislation too late. What they can't do is arrest him for the sake of it. The fact they arrested him means that he kicked off and dropped himself in it.
If a police officer stops you, you don't have to co-operate more than the legally required minimum (identify yourself, maybe co-operate with a search if requested). But equally you don't have to get yourself arrested either.
"Certainly, officer, am I under arrest?"
"Okay, sure, I just don't want to be on camera. No particular reason."
"Absolutely, I'm X and here's my ID to prove it and/or I will provide proof of ID at a police station and/or here's a contact number for my employer and they can identify me if you wish."
"Okay, so am I under arrest?"
"I understand, but I'm in a rush, am I allowed to leave?"
Being dickish about it gets you arrested anyway. Being polite about it raises alarm bells along the lines of "Is this guy a lawyer and am I gonna end up with a charge of false arrest if I reply once wrongly to his questions?"
Now, some people go *too far* and say you shouldn't speak anything but your name, etc. but I think that will raise more suspicion than anything else.
P.S. The police can arrest anyone they like. Literally anyone. So long as they have reasonable grounds to believe an offence has been committed. They can arrest you, take you to the station, question you, etc. etc. etc. And arrest is "to stop" someone and ascertain more facts about the situation. They can then de-arrest you. You would be hard-pushed, if arrested and later de-arrested without charge, to claim that they *hadn't* got reasonable grounds because they won't really arrest you without reason. But they can do it. They literally have the right to do that. Whether or not their "reasonable grounds" are actually reasonable or not is a case for a lawyer, not an armchair rebel, and occurs after the arrest/de-arrest.
Hence, it's really stupid to push them to anywhere near something they can arrest you for, even on the slightest and most dubious of potential charges.
You can be arrested and de-arrested in the street. False arrest is only if they didn't have reasonable grounds upon which to do that. The bar is quite low on what's reasonable. Always has been.
The alternative is that police literally can't then arrest someone walking a few streets away from a burglary with an arm-full of DVD players because "no suspect description matched him" and stuff like that (an exaggeration but not by much).
If you don't understand this, I hope you never get stopped, because you could quickly end up being arrested.
If you do understand this, it doesn't *guarantee* that you won't get arrested, but it does pretty much guarantee that you can't be charged (like this idiot) except for things you actually have done.
Be nice to your police. Not because "they'll nick you if not". Because their job is hard enough without twats making it more difficult anyway. And every time I've ever been stopped, spoken to, pulled over, etc. by one, we've all walked away smiling.
If you were a security guard in a shop, tasked your entire career with detecting shoplifters, and maybe it costs you personally if someone nicks something (e.g. you own the shop), and you saw a guy come into your shop and hide his face from the cameras deliberately... would you not be suspicious? Suspicious enough to monitor him further, at minimum. Maybe let your presence be known, or ask him a question or two and see the reaction? I know I would.
Bam. The police did *just that*. They stopped someone for acting suspiciously. And they have FAR more wide-ranging powers available to them.
Maybe he was cold. Maybe he's shy. Maybe he just saw his ex girlfriend. Maybe he was a criminal who didn't want to be recognised. That's why it's a suspicion.
Stopped on suspicion != arrest and, in this case, charges unless you're a world-class moron.
No, Lee, you are wrong.
Not about the law -- I am happy to take your word on that.
However, you are wrong that avoiding surveillance is suspicious. And you are wrong that police guidance should not make it completely clear, to every constable, that it is unacceptable to society to have police stop anyone because they are refusing to be photographed. Just like it is unacceptable to society to have people stopped and spoken to because they are taking photographs. Neither activity is suspicious. Neither activity should interrupt someone's enjoyment of the public street.
Your example of the person walking near a burglary is irrelevant. Then a crime has been committed and the police need information from witnesses as well as a heightened level of suspicion of anyone who might have committed the crime. All reasonable.
There is no requirement that we assist the police. If they want to take photos in public that is up to them. But they have no more rights than anyone else doing that. If I don't want to be photographed that is equally my right. Applying coercion, by having a constable lurking ready to stop me if I avoid being photographed, is not acceptable and needs to be clearly banned if this technology is to be used for real.
Bottom line: hiding from surveillance is not grounds for suspicion and will not be accepted as such. That needs to be made very clear to every officer involved.
All missing the actual technology point here. From a technology perspective this isn't about whether arrests took place, someone covered their face or any of that, it's simply put, did the technology correctly match the face to the data already in its database? This technology trial would be much better served at a large institution with hundreds/thousands of participants who have willingly agreed to take part, like a university or national/local government building. Set the platform up with a count of 10% of the total population and let it do it's thing. Facial recognition is simply that, what happens with the result after that is down to the individual user (police making arrests, casinos ejecting known card counters etc.).
Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019