Cops using facial recognition?

Chinese police using facial-recognition sunglasses, but in UK tech doesn't work

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Mixed response to facial recognition tech

By Diane Cooke

The Tampa Police Department was the first to install police cameras equipped with facial recognition technology in 2001. The system failed to do the job - with not one criminal being caught - and it was scrapped in 2003 due to ineffectiveness.

People were seen wearing masks and making obscene gestures, prohibiting the cameras from getting a clear enough shot to identify anyone.

Boston's Logan Airport also ran two separate tests of facial recognition systems at its security checkpoints using volunteers. Over a three-month period, the results were disappointing. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the system only had a 61.4 percent accuracy rate, leading airport officials to pursue other security options.

In the mid 1960s, scientists began work on using the computer to recognize human faces. Since then, facial recognition software has come a long way. But it's still got a lot further to go judging by the results the Metropolitan Police in the UK have discovered.

The system was deemed to be 98 per cent wrong. It produced 104 alerts of which only two were later confirmed to be positive matches, a freedom of information request showed. In its response the force said it did not consider the inaccurate matches “false positives” because alerts were checked a second time after they occurred.

Facial recognition technology scans people in a video feed and compares their images to pictures stored in a reference library or watch list. It has been used at large events like the Notting Hill Carnival and a Six Nations Rugby match.

The system used by another force, South Wales Police, has returned more than 2,400 false positives in 15 deployments since June 2017. The vast majority of those came during that month’s Uefa Champion’s League final in Cardiff, and overall only 234 alerts – fewer than 10 per cent – were correct matches.

However, facial recognition sunglasses are being trialled in China and have proven more successful.

China’s police have been using them to catch suspects and those travelling under false identities. Now they're expanding the program to the outskirts of Beijing, according to Reuters. The program was used as extra security while Parliament voted to extend Xi Jinping’s presidency to a lifetime rule, and paralleled the increased censorship and surveillance measures seen throughout China.

Police used the sunglasses to check travellers and car registration plates against the government’s blacklist before Parliament’s annual meeting. The Chinese government has a list of people who are not allowed to enter the meeting and might face additional enforcement action. The blacklist includes criminals, journalists, political dissidents, and human rights activists, among others.

Previously, the glasses were only been tested in train stations in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province. Police allegedly caught seven suspects, and 26 travellers using false identities.

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