3 people arrested using facial recognition technology in London

Authorities in the U.S. are trying out a similar technology

What is facial recognition technology?

LONDON (Gray News) – London’s Metropolitan Police’s recent trial of live facial recognition screening yielded some arrests, but privacy advocates are concerned about the continuing creep of technology on people’s privacy.

Metropolitan Police said they arrested three people wanted for violent crimes by using facial recognition technology in Romford in East London on Thursday.

An addition five arrested during the trial period were “proactive arrests as part of the wider operation.”

Metropolitan Police used NEC’s NeoFace technology, which scans the faces of people who walks by and alerts police to specific matches on a watch list.

Even though signage alerted the public they might be filmed and authorities said they would not deem people who declined to be recorded as suspicious, police stopped people who covered their faces in the test area, fining one man for yelling at an officer when he was stopped and asked for his ID, The Independent reported.

“He simply pulled up the top of his jumper over the bottom of his face, put his head down and walked past,” said Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch. “There was nothing suspicious about him at all … you have the right to avoid [the cameras], you have the right to cover your face. I think he was exercising his rights.”

“The use of facial recognition technology aims to support standard policing activity to ensure everyone’s safety,” Metropolitian Police said on signs announcing the tech’s use.

Of the images scanned, only those images that match the list are retained, the Met Police said.

Metropolitan Police have used the technology on a trial basis since 2016. The public is always informed before its use, the police force said.

“As with all previous deployments the technology was used overtly," said Commander Ivan Balhatchet, strategic lead for live facial recognition. We continue to engage with many different stakeholders, some who actively challenge our use of this technology. In order to show transparency and continue constructive debate, we invited individuals and groups with varying views on our use of facial recognition technology to this operational activity."

In the U.S., U.S. Customs and Border Protection are testing facial recognition technology at 15 major airports.

The new tech identified two alleged imposters at Washington Dulles International Airport in August and September last year, the agency reported.

Other agencies might also adopt the tech.

Amazon admitted it was marketing its facial spotting technology, Rekognition, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement last year, Business Insider said, raising concerns from members of the public that the corporation will assist the government agency in its deportation efforts.

Despite those concerns, Amazon Web Services CEO Andrew Jassy told employees that they tend to keep marketing their tech toward law enforcement, according to an account published in The Verge.

“We feel really great and really strongly about the value that Amazon Rekognition is providing our customers of all sizes and all types of industries in law enforcement and out of law enforcement,” Jassy told employees.

Rekognition currently has one listed law enforcement customer - the Washington County, OR, Sheriff’s Office.

The American Civil Liberties Union said they tested Rekognition and it falsely matched 28 members of Congress when comparing their images to 25,000 mugshot photos. Amazon, in turn, said the way the ACLU conducted the test was faulty.

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