14th May 2020

12-month recap: Crime Fighting Facial Recognition

Summary

Next up in our #MinistryOfTechnocracy mini-series blog we take a look at how facial recognition has been used to fight crime over over the past 12 months.

The crime rate in England’s capital city has been on a steady increase of late, particularly knife crime. To combat this, police chiefs are under increased pressure to catch offenders and solve cases.

Keisha Vanden Operations Support Specialist

Crime Fighting Facial Recognition

Last year the Metropolitan Police were trialling the use of live facial recognition (LFR) in various parts of London, using cameras to scan passers-by to find matches on watch lists.

A big question around privacy loomed and how the public would react to this ‘big brother’ style surveillance? Police ensured that the surveillance sites were clearly sign-posted to ensure the public knew that they were being watched. But what happened to the footage of those who were completely innocent of any crimes?

The Met Police say that the biometric data of those that don’t cause an alert is automatically and immediately deleted.

The technology the police force introduced essentially scans for faces in existing police photos, these are then mapped by software. The camera systems only scan faces that are in view, these faces are then compared for possible matches and flagged. The individuals who have been flagged are then stopped by police.

The system definitely has its pros and cons. For example, it could be used to potentially find missing children and vulnerable adults plus, it’s likely to deter people from committing crime if they know they are being watched.

However, the downside could be the accuracy of the software. Previous trials have shown that only 8 out of 42 matches were correct. It is also vulnerable to hacking and as previously mentioned, privacy has been questioned with campaigners calling the move a serious threat to civil liberties.

In 2020, the Met Police are continuing to use this technology despite calls by campaigners for it to be scrapped. Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said the Met has “a duty” to use new technologies to keep people safe, adding that research showed the public supported the move.

“We all want to live and work in a city which is safe: the public rightly expect us to use widely available technology to stop criminals,” he said.

Next Up: India and the WhatsApp Election…

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