We already knew that the city of Moscow is saturated with CCTV cameras, but we've only just learned the extent that the city is able to conduct surveillance on its citizens. NTechLab is a bold Russian company that is at the forefront of the most talked about technology around, facial recognition. Their app, FindFace, which can track everyone on VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Twitter, based on their profile, caused an outcry in and outside Russia after it was used to to identify and harass sex workers and porn actresses through their personal profiles. Later, the company launched an emotion-reading recognition system, re-igniting concerns over the citizens' privacy and personal data. Despite rumours, nobody really knew who's using this state-of-the-art technology as NTechLab doesn't disclose the identity of their clients.
Thousands of attendees of the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff, Wales were mistakenly identified as potential criminals by facial recognition technology used by local law enforcement. According to the Guardian, the South Wales police scanned the crowd of more than 170,000 people who traveled to the nation's capital for the soccer match between Real Madrid and Juventus. The cameras identified 2,470 people as criminals. Having that many potential lawbreakers in attendance might make sense if the event was, say, a convict convention, but seems pretty high for a soccer match. As it turned out, the cameras were a little overly-aggressive in trying to spot some bad guys.
Facial recognition software used by the UK's biggest police force has returned false positives in more than 98 per cent of alerts generated, The Independent can reveal, with the country's biometrics regulator calling it "not yet fit for use". The Metropolitan Police's system has produced 104 alerts of which only two were later confirmed to be positive matches, a freedom of information request showed. In its response the force said it did not consider the inaccurate matches "false positives" because alerts were checked a second time after they occurred. Facial recognition technology scans people in a video feed and compares their images to pictures stored in a reference library or watch list. It has been used at large events like the Notting Hill Carnival and a Six Nations Rugby match.
"V for Vendetta" masks are a typical feature of many political protests since the eponymous dystopian movie came out in 2005 -- but what if facial recognition technology was able to identify the face behind the mask? SEE ALSO: Why the iPhone 8's facial recognition could be a privacy disaster We're not there yet, but researchers are slowly and steadily making highly-controversial steps in this direction. Academics from Cambridge University, India's National Institute of Technology, and the Indian Institute of Science used deep learning and a dataset of pictures of people in disguise to try to identify masked faces with an acceptable level of reliability. The research, published on the preprint server arXiv and shared in an AI newsletter, went viral after prominent academic and sociologist Zeynep Tufekci shared it on Twitter. Stressing that the paper "isn't that great", Tufekci nonetheless points out that it's the direction that's worrying, as oppressive and authoritarian states could use the tool to stifle dissent and expose anonymous protesters.
How would you feel being watched, tracked and identified by facial recognition cameras everywhere you go? Facial recognition cameras are now creeping onto the streets of Britain and the U.S., yet most people aren't even aware. As we walk around, our faces could be scanned and subjected to a digital police line up we don't even know about. There are over 6 million surveillance cameras in the U.K. – more per citizen than any other country in the world, except China. In the U.K., biometric photos are taken and stored of people whose faces match with criminals – even if the match is incorrect. As director of the U.K. civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, I have been investigating the U.K. police's "trials" of live facial recognition surveillance for several years.