At the end of each summer for the last 14 years, the small Welsh town of Porthcawl has been invaded. Every year its 16,000 population is swamped by up to 35,000 Elvis fans. Many people attending the yearly festival look the same: they slick back their hair, throw on oversized sunglasses and don white flares. At 2017's Elvis festival, impersonators were faced with something different. Police were trialling automated facial recognition technology to track down criminals.
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.
Automated facial recognition systems from Japanese biz NEC will be used on staffers and athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The technology – which is not without its detractors in the UK – was demonstrated at a media event in the city today. It will require athletes, staff, volunteers and the press to submit their photographs before the games start. These will then be linked up to IC chips in their passes and combined with scanners on entry to allow them access to more than 40 facilities. Tsuyoshi Iwashita, head of security for the games, said the aim was to reduce pressure on entry points and shorten queueing time for this group of people.
While AFR tech has been trialled by a number of UK police forces, this appears to be the first time it has led to an arrest. South Wales Police didn't provide details about the nature of the arrest, presumably because it's an ongoing case. Back in April, it emerged that South Wales Police planned to scan the faces "of people at strategic locations in and around the city centre" ahead of the UEFA Champions League final, which was played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on June 3. On May 31, though, a man was arrested via AFR. "It was a local man and unconnected to the Champions League," a South Wales Police spokesperson told Ars.
Ask critics of police face recognition why they're so skeptical and they'll likely cite unreliability as one factor. Unfortunately, that caution appears to have been warranted to some degree. South Wales Police are facing a backlash after they released data showing that their face recognition trial at the 2017 Champions League final misidentified thousands as potential criminals. Out out of 2,470 initial matches, 2,297 were false positives -- about 92 percent. The police unit pinned the results on both "poor quality images" from Interpol and UEFA and the novelty of the technology.