Alexander Martin Alongside The Register Vulture

The Register Journalist interviewed on UK national TV about privacy issues 

Situation Publishing’s own Alexander Martin appears on BBC TV’s ‘The One Show’ to explain the dangers of live-feed facial recognition.

NeoFace is a new form of live-feed facial recognition software that is currently being trialled by UK police and security forces, raising privacy concerns among many. The tech was recently showcased on popular British chat show ‘The One Show’.

The nightly BBC chat show, which is watched by an audience of three million, chose to demonstrate the effectiveness facial recognition software by turning it on a crowded Christmas shopping market. Although the effectiveness of the technology was mixed, in one instance it was unable to see past a fake beard for instance, the danger it represents to anonymity and privacy will only grow as it improves, as The Register journalist Alexander Martin explained.

Software capable of facial recognition is nothing new, Facebook uses similar technology to identify a user’s friends for automatic photo tagging, but these only work on static images, and are confined to recommending only a given users’ confirmed friends. The concerns surrounding the technology demonstrated on The One Show stem from the fact it can be used to identify people from a video feed in real time based on a single picture of them, regardless of their consent effectively threatening anonymity and privacy.

 As Alexander points out, older identification methods used by security services- such as fingerprints and DNA – are governed by laws which cover how long that data can be kept for, but no such laws exist detailing how long a person’s mugshot can be kept on file for. The current police national database contains 16.5 million individual’s mugshots on file, despite hundreds of thousands of those individuals never having been convicted or even charged for any crime.

Given the UK’s extensive electronic surveillance system, linking real time facial recognition software to a database of 16.5 million photos, would be tantamount to placing almost a quarter of the UK’s population under tacit surveillance. How many times has your face been recorded for work? By the council? Everyday government agencies? This places the UK government on shaky ground when justifying how they can keep people’s pictures on file and identifiable by the software well beyond the time frame afforded to older forms of identification.

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