back to article Interpol proposes world face-recognition database

Interpol chiefs will propose the use of automated facial-recognition technology at borders to flag up internationally wanted suspects, according to reports. The UK already has airport gates equipped with such technology, intended to remove the need for a human border guard to check that a passenger's face matches the one …


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  1. Richard Johnson
    Thumb Down

    But it doesn't work

    "A specially-equipped airport gate - or even, in some circumstances, a security camera - would be able to sound an alert every time a person on the Interpol watch list went past."

    Are you sure about that? I thought these face recognition systems didn't actually work all that well in the field.

  2. Secretgeek

    Why did I think 'Minority Report' when I read this?

    Mine's the one with the new eyeballs in the pocket.

  3. TeeCee Gold badge


    The first person to hack this, so that when Gordon Brown walks past it comes up with Osama Bin Laden's rap sheet married to a picture of a warthog's backside, gets an award!

    The possibilities are endless.

  4. Brian

    False Positives

    This is arrant nonsense.

    The system, if it is ever implemented, will die horribly by being suffocated by false positives within days of its introduction.

    And real criminals / terrorists will have handy fake ID and disguises, so I'd hazard a guess that almost 100% of the matches will be false positives anyway.

    Mine's the one with the false moustache in the pocket.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Possibly seaports as well.

    >The UK already has airport gates equipped with such technology

    They might have them at Dover-Calais as well. I recently passed through UK border control at Calais. On the return journey at Dover I offered my passport to be let out but it was waved away, no ID was examined at all.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Nah, you need a whole new face; this isn't iris recognition.

  7. Chris Miller

    And even if it did work

    Let's pretend they could get this to work with a false positive rate of only 1% (pure science fiction, even assuming someone has a recent high quality snap of O-bin-L). Then Heathrow, with 68 million passengers a year, will result in 2,000 innocent folk being pulled over for intimate body cavity investigation/redeployment to Gitmo every DAY.

    Brilliant! Where do they get these security clowns from?

  8. Colin Millar

    Oh yes please

    Dear Santa

    My mummy said that if I was a very very good girl I could have one of these for christmas and I have been ever such a good girl - I haven't given away anyone's personal data for - oh days now, and I'm going to tidy up the intertubes and make them all straight instead of all wiggly just like that nice secret policeman man asked me to.

    So please can I have a new database please please please



  9. Guy Herbert

    And of course it doesn't work

    Has the robocop concerned not noticed that no-one has ever got automatic "facial recognition" to work even remotely adequately. You're lucky if it automatically recognises a face as a face, never mind whose it is, half the time.

  10. Adam Foxton


    So say we've got a terrorist who's grown a beard- or perhaps had a shave. Or is wearing a hat/fake tan/fake skin whitening / novelty oversized sunglasses/umbrella (outside on camera)/ rubber chicken on the shoulder, etc. What then?

    Okay, I can sort of see how this could work in an airport gate- "please take the sunglasses, Sombrero and inflatable Parrot off and look directly at the dot on the wall, sir"- but not on camera.

    Even with a sci-fi grade system that could get clear, straight-on photos processed quickly with a 99% accuracy, the system would be defeated by a fake- or real- scar in just the right place. Or a hat, makeup (Best to go outlandish, like going through Customs looking like Tony the Tiger- claim its for a youngun's birthday or something), or a quick application of a razor / beard-hair-dye.

  11. MarkW

    All this money

    should be spent on health and education.

    Already, we are seeing an emergence of a society more polarised than ever.

    Biometric passports, ID cards, no-fly lists, DNA databases are all tools directed firmly at the have nots whilst the merchant bankers (remember them?) fly off to their Dubai pad for the weekend.

    If it isn't brought in by the UK parliament, the excuse is that is it will be a directive from the appointed European Commission.

    "It's to fight terrorism" is the government mantra.

    If they wanted to reduce terrorism, they would address the causes and stop fighting illegal wars and supporting repressive regimes and dictatorships.

  12. Hollerith

    big red flashing arrow

    Why not have this wondrous new technology, that can deliver beyond what anyone at El Reg understands to be feasible, just float a holograph of a stonking big red blinking arrow over the heads of the villians, using criminal/terr'ist DNA and brain-wave detectors? It could work like some big microwave-detector polygraph! Zounds, what genius!!

  13. Christoph
    Black Helicopters

    False positives

    If your name matches one on the watch list, you get harassed every time you travel.

    If your face is similar to one of the photos of one of the people on the watch list, you get harassed every time you travel.

    If you walk or behave slightly differently from other people and trigger the automatic scanners you get harassed every time you travel.

    If you don't like it - don't travel.

    And remember, this is to help *you*! We've decided that it's best for you. No, you don't get to have an opinion on it.

  14. Chris G

    Hitler is alive and well

    And he is apparently controlling many of the world's governments,with seemingly Goebbles sitting next to him, there is evidence of the same kind of uberkontroll that Goebbles went in for .

    And there was me thinking he lost the war and took a poison pill.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    but facial-recognition is seen as potentially more reliable.

    Right. Just what kind of drug-induced haze was this idiot in while spouting this nonsense?

    I can see the thousands pulled out for extra screening only to be found out they really are who they say they are and the database has been hacked, whacked, and lost (oh, excuse our little security blunder)..

    @TeeCee - glad I didn't have a mouthful of anything when I read that...thanks

    Paris - 'cos they would pull her over for extra probing no matter what.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    oh yes....

    yet another chuffin database for the information to get lost from

  17. Anonymous Coward

    You there! No gurning!

    Next ID I have to have a photo taken for, I'm using some of that cool latex stuff people use for stage/film productions to make a mask. What you say? I need a license for that? Sherlock Holmes never had it this hard, I'll tell ya. (mind you, he and Dr. Watson did also carry heat a lot of the time and weren't too shy about shooting first and asking questions later. Plus I hear he was just a fictional character, so maybe the disguise thing is just imaginary too).

  18. Gareth Jones Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Apples and Oranges

    When they talk about existing technologies and compare it to their proposed system they are comparing apples and oranges. The existing use of this sort of tech looks at your face and your passport photo compares the two and raises the alarm if the two DON'T match. So it's used to flag up obvious negatives. In other words it's something that will replace unskilled passport control workers. It's a labour saving device.

    The same technology simply won't do the job they want it to do, but then they probably don't care. It's actually a labour increasing device for border control staff, but not for the police. Every false postitive will have to be checked by border control staff, not the police.

    Like most systems proposed by police forces these days this is yet another admission that they can't do their jobs properly and want somebody else to do them for them.

    They could actually do some proper work to keep track of these suspects, but they are either too useless to do it or maybe want to save money. Either way this system means that border control staff can do their jobs for them.

  19. The Voice of Reason

    Hirsute Nonsense

    OK. So they set up facial recognition. Next thing you know they'll be worried about how easy it is to defeat it.

    Solution: you'll need a special licence for whenever you want to change your hairstyle, grow side-burns, or heaven forbid a full-beard.

    They'll probably work out the complexity in having to do all the extra processing of your image & work out a range of licence fees. It could be a good little money-spinner for the government. Maybe:

    £50 -New Hairstyle

    £100 -New/ removed Moustache

    £150 -New/ removed Sideburns

    £200 -New/ removed Goatie

    £500 -New/ removed Full beard

    & maybe a bargain of only £10 if you want to do smaller changes such as wear lipstick, mascara, or tweak your nose hair.

    I propose we subvert this system, & all start a new fashion for growing long hair, combed down over the face. It should also piss off all those CCTV operators that like to record our every movement in public.

    But sorry Baldies, I guess there's no place for you in our new masterplan.

  20. Neoc

    Old news

    's funny... I remember watching reports 7 years ago of Australia's CSIRO and their facial-recognition system. If memory serves, it didn't compare pictures but facial structures (ie, ratios of various facial measurements) and it had a pretty good hit-rate.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @The Voice of Reason

    Just remember...if it's wacky jacqui, you'll only need 25p for a ticket to a tractor pull (winner gets a chain hooked up to pull their head our of their arse).

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Way too far

    >Libertarian campaign group NO2ID said that plans of this sort were a step too far.

    We're groaning under steps too far. NotLabour have managed to introduce enough of them to comfortably cover a walk from London to Siberia via Capetown. If this is democracy my education was clearly worse than I previously thought. Book burning can only be a few months away.

  23. Dan Silver badge

    Oh just get it over with already

    Chip everyone at birth, make chips a requirement to travel on any mode of transport/have a job/claim benefits/pay, and give everyone a pen to live in, like cattle. Just stop pretending everyone should be greatful for the favour.

  24. DJ

    Lemon screen

    I was using lemon screen on my home pc, , that is until my 2 year old daughter thought it was fun to watch herself on the screen and unlocked it with her face.

    My pool little girl is as ugly as her father.. bah

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Beating the system

    "...the system would be defeated by a fake- or real- scar in just the right place. Or a hat, makeup (Best to go outlandish, like going through Customs looking like Tony the Tiger- claim its for a

    youngun's birthday or something), or a quick application of a razor / beard-hair-dye..."

    No it wouldn't. The current approach to facial recognition is to measure underlying structures that are difficult to change, like the gap between pupis, height of eye line above ear lobe, distance between nose and upper lip. They try and use non-visible spectra to see past flesh to bone structure, and they're getting pretty good. Beards and hair colour and the like won't make a jot of difference though.

    Still doesn't mean they get anything like an acceptable hitrate, but Groucho Marx glasses-nose-moustache rigs won't fool 'em if they would pick you up without 'em.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    "Facial recognition is a step we could go to quite quickly."

    That's just how I like my unnecessary, invasive, degrading, interfering, oppressing, fear spreading, surveiling, government plans to commence. Quickly!!!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    are you trying to say that with a population of approx 60 million that there are enough differences in bone structure to tell me or you apart from the millions of other people out there??

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