An automatic facial scanning system has been used in Wales to spot a man wanted by the UK police, who was then arrested. Believed to be the first of its kind in the country, the arrest follows an earlier announcement by the South Wales police force that that it would be introducing NEC’s NeoFace Watch automatic facial recognition system. Cameras are mounted on the roof of a police vehicle to allow surrounding crowds to be scanned for suspects in real time:
“This facial recognition technology will enable us to search, scan and monitor images and video of suspects against offender databases, leading to the faster and more accurate identification of persons of interest. The technology can also enhance our existing CCTV network in the future by extracting faces in real time and instantaneously matching them against a watch list of individuals, including missing people. We are very cognisant of concerns about privacy and we are building in checks and balances into our methodology to reassure the public that the approach we take is justified and proportionate.”
The UK is famous for having a very high number of CCTV cameras. At the beginning of 2015, there were six million of them, in a country whose population is 65 million – that is, one surveillance camera for every 10 people. So it’s no surprise the UK police are keen to harness automatic facial recognition systems to spot people they are seeking. An earlier trial of large-scale facial recognition took place during a music festival in 2015, when 100,000 visitors were scanned. Something similar had been carried out by the Boston police at a local music festival in the wake of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing.
The UK police are rolling out facial recognition to other surveillance systems. For example, the