Two stories recently, which might turn a face or two. In America and China, alarm bells are ringing for privacy and justice advocates. In America, suggestions that Homeland Security‘s airport facial recognition scanners are inaccurate and possibly illegal turned heads at the end of last year. And this week in China, where there isn’t as much oversight, police are already using glasses to ID “people of interest.”
The rational fear is that mistaken identity cases will see innocent people with the wrong face detained, and possibly worse. Even if the systems are 99.9% accurate, for that one person in a thousand dragged away for investigation, their lives could be dramatically altered.
The technology itself is simple enough, and not far removed from how phones scan your face for identification purposes. In China, where the country already has a booming CCTV identity system, the tech has gone portable with police officers wearing smart glasses. They scan faces in a crowd and looks for matches via a smartphone link to the police servers. Using AI techniques to match faces among a database of criminals, suspects or other people of interest, which prevents those traveling under false identities from escaping.
Apparently, people can wear hats and glasses, scarves and other paraphernalia to escape detection but only for so long. And more covered up someone is the more likely they are to attract attention.
Face the surveillance future
While the politicians’ version of this is “people with nothing to h have nothing to fear.” That’s never quite the case. And no matter what the activists and freedom lobbies say, it won’t stop the technology rolling out in more countries, especially transport hubs and public areas where crime is an issue. Even companies and brands are taking an interest.
If it saves lives, stopping bombers or high-level fugitives, then people will welcome technology like NEC’s NeoFace. But if there are more stories of people banged up by Homeland Security, more questions will be asked, if the technology causes people suffering.
How’s the surveillance where you are? Does it worry you or make you feel safer?
I’ve been writing about technology. PCs and mobile for over 10 years, covering news, tutorials, reviews, comparisons and other pieces across magazines and websites.