back to article There's no guidance for Scottish police use of UK facial recog database

An audit into Police Scotland has raised the alarm over the country's lack of independent oversight on police access to the facial recognition capabilities of the UK Police National Database. The 51-page audit (PDF), which was published yesterday, also noted that although the existing statutory guidance on the facial images …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So 25% or more of the UK population have their pictures in the database? That is truly frightening.

    Surely that proportion of the population can't have been convicted of crimes? Does it include everyone arrested? Stopped?


    1. Electron Shepherd

      I would imagine that there's more than one photo per person, (front and profile at a minimum), but even so, 18 million is a lot of photos, especially since the size of the adult population is significantly smaller than 70 million.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Roughly 25% of the UK population has a criminal record so those are probably courtesy of the Police PhotoMe booth.

      However as a precaution against state abuse I may consider changing my religion and start wearing a Niqāb in public.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Big Brother

        s/precaution against/requirement for/

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      It would not surprise me if the scanned in the mugshot books and not only have photos going back for years but have multiple pics of the same people taken over the years. Likewise there's all those covert photos taken at raves, riots, protest, outdoor concerts etc.

      Having 18m photos is not the same has having had 18m people arrested and processed through the system. Not only that but the "facial search" doesn't sound as though it's especially good anyway. It does sound as though they are retaining far too many images of unconvicted people though.

      There was a program, on BBC R4 (PM?) a while back talking about (IIRC) "super recognisers",a smallish but significant group of people in a certain age range who seem to be incredibly good at remembering and recognising faces, even from poor photos, who are far, far better than any current computer system and they are being actively searched out and recruited.

  2. The Mole

    "Brian Plastow, told The Register that the PND system was "not that great" as it returns only a number of possible image matches which require human assessment, comparison and investigation."

    To me that sounds exactly the correct implementation, there will always be margins of error and it should be up to a human to recognise that they should assess and investigate the results properly, not just go with the highest hit and ignore the very similar looking person in position. The fact he thinks that makes it really not that great is worrying - though obviously I've not seen the implementation so it may be made really badly..

    1. Otto is a bear.


      Most systems used for investigative searches provide a range of results that need to be verified by a human being before accepting the computer's word for it and forcing a life changing event on a completely innocent person.

      I believe that some of the images are for missing people or unidentified bodies. For habitual criminals there will also be multiple sets of mug shots.

  3. BurnT'offering

    This is precisely why I always wear ...

    ... a large ginger false beard, and a massive floppy Tam O'Shanter (over my burka)

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: This is precisely why I always wear ...

      I usually disguise myself as Callmedave. Seems to work. Camera crews are a bit of a bother, sometimes.

  4. x 7

    Its all right, Scots photo systems automatically disregard any photos which don't show the suspect with a bottle of Buckie in his hand

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Would you make a similar remark about a Japanese person and sushi, an Indian or Pakistani and curry, a Korean about say, dog?

      1. x 7

        "Would you make a similar remark about a Japanese person and sushi, an Indian or Pakistani and curry, a Korean about say, dog?"

        Yes I would

        I treat everybody equally

  5. Graham Marsden

    "their current unregulated activities...

    "...would be more compliant than that of their southern colleagues."

    Hmm, it seems that these particular Custodes are Custodieting* themselves very well and acting in a sensible and responsible manner.

    Obviously, therefore, they need "proper oversight" to ensure that they keep doing this stop wasting a valuable resource in the fight against [Terrorists | Drug Dealers | Paedophiles]**

    * Yes, so what...? ;-)

    ** Delete as appropriate for whatever press release is being issued.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Picture count

    Whenever someone is arrested, certainly in Scotland, a new picture is taken as part of the custody suite process. This is added to the database alongside their previous pictures.

    Rationale for this is that historical crimes are commonly reported and for an emulator board, you would need a picture from that time period, etc. When you do a search to compile an emulator board, you are always given the most recent picture unless you specifically request the older ones.

    So that probably counts for a fair whack of that 18mil when you consider that people with 180 previous convictions are commonplace, certainly where I work!

  7. JeffyPoooh

    Scottish Facial Recognition System

    The lowest bidder delivers and installs the system.

    After a few days, they notice that the only output is an accented voice that says, "Aye, that's a face."

    1. Roj Blake

      Re: Scottish Facial Recognition System

      Sounds a bit like Mitchell & Webb's cheese (and petrol) smelling robot.

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