Facial recognition used to catch London rioters

Facial recognition is in the news again, this time in conjunction with the rioting that took place in London last week. According to an article by the Associated Press, law enforcement officials have begun entering pictures of suspects into the Scotland Yard database, in hopes of matching up offenders with a criminal history.

Press officials with the Scotland Yard announced that facial recognition technology is only being used to identify and track down the extreme perpetrators, and that old-fashioned methods of spreading pictures (in newspapers, on television, on hand-distributed fliers) are much more effective. An article in the March 2010 edition of The Job, Scotland Yard’s bi-monthly magazine, said the pictures in the database are of persons who already have a crime record.

However, the article also mentioned that photos of faces taken from “mobile phones, surveillance photographs, passports, passes and even the internet” could be used to identify individuals. This information takes facial recognition one step further, because it no longer limits the pool of suspects to those with a criminal record – something which many individuals view as a breach of privacy.

Furthermore, this technology may be implemented at the 2012 Olympics in London as a security measure. The possible controversy with this is whether the technology will be used preventatively or curatively.

Interestingly enough, it turns out police aren’t the only people working to identify rioters; there is a new Google Group, “London Riots Facial Recognition,” which is working to do the same thing. The only difference is the group is made up of civilians intent on using facial recognition technology at hand to assist in finding perpetrators.

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