By Josie Wales
U.K. police recently made their first arrest using facial recognition software following a series of trials at large-scale public events. According to authorities, the man was arrested three days prior to the UAEA Champions League Final June 3rd while South Wales police were conducting their most recent experiment with the high-tech surveillance. Cameras linked to facial recognition software were located around the stadium, local train station, and designated police vehicles to monitor people in and around the city center.
Details surrounding the arrest have not been released, but authorities confirmed the man was a local resident “unconnected” to the Champions League Final.
A police spokeswoman described the goal of the surveillance trials that weekend:
The facial recognition technology is currently being tested as proof of concept, in order to determine its potential and feasibility within a challenging, real-world policing environment.
The UCL has clearly provided a perfect testing ground. While early indications are proving positive, we will continue to develop our understanding of its capabilities and its limitations.
South Wales police have been working with tech company NEC, best known for its Neoface Watch software, which is “specifically designed to integrate with existing surveillance systems by extracting faces in real time from existing video surveillance systems and matching against a watch list of individuals. When the system identifies an individual of interest from the watch list, it raises an alert, so appropriate actions can be taken rapidly to reduce the risk of public safety threats,” the company explains.
While authorities claim the software will not violate the privacy of innocent Brits, it’s important to note that the Police National Database was found to have been storing the images of over 19 million citizens merely suspected of a crime. Even more alarming was a statement from South Wales police and crime commissioner Alun Michael that sounded eerily like the enforcement of pre-crime.
“Our approach to policing is very much centred upon early intervention and prompt, positive action; the introduction of facial recognition helps to support these aims by allowing us to identify vulnerability, challenge perpetrators, and reduce instances of offending within environments where the technology is deployed,” the commissioner said.