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Our surveillance future: pervasive, continuous facial recognition from wandering robo-cars and hovering drones

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Last month, Privacy News Online wrote about the first arrest by UK police using an automatic facial recognition system mounted on a vehicle to scan people in a crowd. But things move quickly in the world of surveillance technologies: the police in Dubai have announced that they will be deploying facial recognition systems mounted on autonomous vehicles by the end of 2017, as Gulf News reports:

“The robotic vehicles will be equipped with biometric software to scan for wanted criminals and undesirables who are suspected or are breaking laws, police said.

About the size of a child’s electric toy car, the driverless vehicles will patrol different areas of the city to boost security and hunt for unusual activity, all the while scanning crowds for potential persons of interest to police and known criminals.”

The robo-car comes from the Singaporean startup Otsaw Digital, whose Web site provides more details on the vehicle:

“With an array of cameras that serve specialised functions in the likes of thermal imaging, facial and license plate recognition, stereo photography and more, O-R3 is able to capture and access a wide range of data.

O-R3 is equipped with numerous 3D and 2D laser scanners, IMU [inertial measurement unit] and ultrasonic sensors, GPS, long range data transmitters and more, that enables the most granular of data to be collected.

Through sensor fusion technology, O-R3 intelligently crunches huge chunks of data at top speed that gives it acute scene understanding, for performance of human-like actions such as obstacle avoidance and anomaly detection, at machine efficacy.”

The O-R3 is available for a rental fee of $10,000 per month, which apparently equates to paying several human security guards, depending on location. Despite that hefty sum, a press release from the company claims that Dubai plans to use

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