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.
A growing backlash against face recognition suggests the technology has a reached a crucial tipping point, as battles over its use are erupting on numerous fronts. Face-tracking cameras have been trialled in public by at least three UK police forces in the last four years. A court case against one force, South Wales Police, began earlier this week, backed by human rights group Liberty. Ed Bridges, an office worker from Cardiff whose image was captured during a test in 2017, says the technology is an unlawful violation of privacy, an accusation the police force denies. Avoiding the camera's gaze has got others in trouble.
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.
At face value it's remarkably convenient – and really, really cool. If you live in Bournemouth and fancy a night out, you no longer have to worry about squeezing your passport in and out of your pocket just to get through the door of a club, pub, or bar. Instead of relying on traditional forms of ID to verify your age, you can now use Yoti – an app that uses facial recognition to prove that you are you.
"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.