Over the past few months, high-profile incidents in the United Kingdom, one of the most surveilled societies in the world, forced people to consider how facial recognition will be used there. Brexit taking up most of the oxygen in the room hasn't made that debate any easier, but in conversations with VentureBeat, three experts from different backgrounds -- Ada Lovelace Institute director Carly Kind, the U.K.'s surveillance camera commissioner Tony Porter, and University of Essex professor Daragh Murray, who studies police use of facial recognition -- all agree that the U.K. needs to find a middle ground. All three agree that years of Brexit debate have stifled necessary reform, and that leaving the European Union could carry consequences for years to come as police and businesses continue experiments with facial recognition in the U.K. They also worry that an inability to take action could lead to calls for a ban or overregulation, or far more dystopian scenarios of facial recognition everywhere. The Terminator's got serious competition for symbolizing the fear of technology trampling human rights. Facial recognition has become a major issue around the globe due both to its deeply personal and pervasive nature as well as advances in AI that now make it work in real time.
As night falls in London, Georgina Rowlands and Anna Hart start applying makeup. Rowlands has long narrow blue triangles and thin white rectangles criss-crossing her face. Hart has a collection of red, orange and white angular shapes on hers. They're two of the four founders of the Dazzle Club, a group of artists set up last year to provoke discussion about the growing using of facial recognition technology. The group holds monthly silent walks through different parts of London to raise awareness about the technology, which they say is being used for "rampant surveillance."
Police have made their first arrest based on facial recognition technology, a system that is controversial but could identify terrorism suspects in real time. South Wales police said that they arrested a local man with an outstanding warrant last week after cameras identified him from his features as he passed a surveillance van. The arrest came as officers were preparing to use cameras fitted on vehicles to film the faces of football fans attending the Champions League final at the Millennium stadium in Cardiff on Saturday. The force has received Home Office funding to pilot the technology from the NEC security business. Success could lead to a national rollout.
If you're reading this in the United States, there's a 50 percent chance that a photo of your face is in at least one database used in police facial-recognition systems. Police departments in nearly half of U.S. states can use facial-recognition software to compare surveillance images with databases of ID photos or mugshots. Some departments only use facial-recognition to confirm the identity of a suspect who's been detained; others continuously analyze footage from surveillance cameras to determine exactly who is walking by at any particular moment. Altogether, more than 117 million American adults are subject to face-scanning systems. These findings were published Tuesday in a report from Georgetown Law's Center for Privacy and Technology.