Privacy concerns over Police ‘instant ID’ camera trial

New facial recognition technology which can instantly identify people from any digital image in seconds is being trialled in the UK for the first time.

Leicestershire Police has become the first UK force to trail NEC’s Neoface software – and say it will be used on CCTV and body camera footage, according to The Next Web’s report. Privacy groups such as Britain’s Big Brother Watch have raised concerns over the technology – saying it represents the “next level” of surveillance, according to the BBC’s report.

Under UK law, the software’s identification is inadmissible in a court of law, but Leicestershire police say that it can save time searching for potential matches for faces. At present, the British force performs the searches manually.

In America, Neoface has been used to convict an armed robber in Chicago, which has 22,000 cameras linked to the software, according to Engadget’s report. Pierre D Martin was sentenced to 22 years in prison earlier this year.

Privacy group warns of ‘next level’ of surveillance

Leicestershire police said that early trials of the system offered a high success rate, and dismissed concerns over privacy, saying that their image database consisted of people .

Chief Inspector Chris Cockerill said: “We’re very proud to be the first UK Police force to evaluate this new system. Initial results have been very promising and we’re looking forward to seeing what can be achieved throughout the six month trial.”

Identity unit Manager Andy Ramsay said: “We have over ninety-thousand photos on our system and Neo-Face can compare someone’s image against our complete databases in seconds. Besides the speed it’s also impressive because it can even find family members related to the person we’re trying to identify.”

22 years in jail

Earlier this year, the biometric facial recognition software was used to convict an armed robber, with a Chicago criminal “matched” from CCTV footage to a mug shot, and sentenced to 22 years in prison, according to the Chicago-Sun Times.

Sky News said that the case marked the first conviction obtained using NeoFace – face-recognition software purchased by the Chicago Police Department for $5.4m.

Engadget points out that the case has eerie echoes of the videogame Watch Dogs – a cybercrime-heavy science fiction hit inspired in part by Chicago’s use of 22,000 face-recognition cameras. We Live Security took a look at the realism (or otherwise) of the game’s world of all-seeing cameras and super-powered smartphone apps in this feature.

The software used to “match” Martin’s image to a database of several million police mugshots was made by NEC, according to Silicon Republic’s report. The software has also been bought by other police departments, and by businesses wishing to keep track of  customers via CCTV, the site reported.

Further We Live Security stories dealing with the emerging technology can be found here.

Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security

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