back to article London's top cop isn't expecting facial recog tech to result in 'lots of arrests'

The commissioner of London's Met Police has insisted the public "expect" cops to trial the facial recognition tech that is subject to two legal challenges in the UK – while admitting she doesn’t expect its use to result in “lots of arrests”. In a hearing at the London Assembly today, Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police …

  1. Lee D Silver badge

    Just let them, already.

    Because the tech most certainly is NOT ready.

    And when it proves an expensive failure, it'll be harder to justify the next (or any) such system in the future.

    I have not yet once managed to get through Stansted airport facial-recognition, with or without-glasses, wearing the same T-shirt as in my passport photo, etc. etc. Not once. I ALWAYS stand there like an idiot for 5 minutes while it keeps trying, and then get pulled away by the woman STATIONED at the damn thing to take people to the "Whoops it didn't work line" where a human does the job (and which is always a long queue, not just individuals).

    This stuff doesn't work any better than random chance, and certainly not better than a trained human. Stop it. Or rather - trial it all, see how useless it is, realise the salesmen lied, get over it and spend your next pot of money elsewhere to avoid a repeat embarrassment.

    1. James 51

      Look at universal credit, incompetence and a waste of money aren't restrictions on doing stuff.

    2. MrXavia
      Big Brother

      The problem is probably your passport photo, I had the same issue recently returning to the UK and I am sure its my poor quality photo and less so the tech... The old IRIS system was so much better, never had an issue with that not recognising me..

      But I do think we should be grabbing bio-metrics of everyone entering the country and for every passport, last time I arrived in China I had my bio-metrics taken, fingerprints, face, possibly iris (not sure if the camera was good enough for that) and I can't actually think of a reason to deny that data, its only really useful for identification of a living person, and its data we leave lying around the place everywhere we go... (CCTV captures our face, fingerprints on surfaces we touch)

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Stop

        @Mr Xavia

        "I had my bio-metrics taken, fingerprints, face, possibly iris (not sure if the camera was good enough for that) and I can't actually think of a reason to deny that data"

        I would like to repeat point that I have always made about biometrics. If the ID theft bad guys get your password, you can change that. If the same bad guys get your fingerprints and iris scan--you're screwed for life.

        Its all just bits and bytes now. Sure, your iris scan takes a lot more of those than your online banking password does, but storage is cheap these days...

        1. MrXavia

          Re: @Mr Xavia

          "I would like to repeat point that I have always made about biometrics. If the ID theft bad guys get your password, you can change that. If the same bad guys get your fingerprints and iris scan--you're screwed for life."

          Completely agree with you here, bio-metrics are only useful for identification, they should never be used for passwords, personally I use 2FA where possible. That is why I have no problem with my biometrics being taken by a government (not that I had a choice anyway)

    3. Patrician

      Went through the facial recognition terminals at St Pancras for a Euro-star trip with no issues, and through the ones at Birmingham Airport on the the way back, again with no issues.

    4. Flywheel Silver badge

      Or rather - trial it all, see how useless it is, realise the salesmen lied, get over it and spend your next pot of money elsewhere to avoid a repeat embarrassment

      Are you new here (in the UK)?

      They'll trial it, accept the data as valid, sack the salesman and spend the next lot of taxpayers money with the same company, "because version 2 has so many more features and is AI-driven in the Cloud".

      In the meantime, the poor sods that have been "stored" will remain there because "early versions don't have a delete facility". We/they'll commit an offence sooner or later so it'll be fine.

      I'd add the /s but I can't because it's a fair approximation of the truth...

      1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

        "because version 2 has so many more features and is AI-driven in the Cloud".

        "because version 2 has so many more features, is AI-driven in the Cloud and uses BLOCKCHAIN".

        FTFY

    5. PhilipN Silver badge

      always a long queue, not just individuals

      Huh? You mean like some of those scenes in Men in Black?

  2. James 51
    FAIL

    If the police can't manage to delete illegally held mugshots of innocent people from their database(s) then they cannot be competent enough to run a facial recogniation system.

    As for the two people the system is identified, with an error rate of 98% I wonder if it didn't just get lucky and two errors appeared to make a right.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      If you are looking for 5 people out of a population of 2,000,000, then a system that was 99.98% accurate at identifying them would would have a 98% false positive rate - it would pick out 250 people, and your 5 suspects would be among them.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        But they're not.

        That's a silly use case.

        They're looking for possibly 100,000 people out of possibly 70m people. At that point - in fact, WAY before that point - the numbers explode and even an accurate system has an atrocious false positive error rate.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          @Lee D - Perfectly right. The theoretical best way to use this system is to target high-value most-wanted suspects. Instead of looking for 100,000 people including petty criminals, focus on the top 100 targets. there still would be a lot of false positives but they could be manually screened in reasonable time by experienced professionals. If you're screening for 100k targets there's no way you could manually screen all the flagged sightings.

          But in practice these high-value targets will know to stay away from the scanned areas, so we're back to useless

          1. John Sturdy
            Coat

            Not completely useless, depending on the actual aims

            If it keeps them away from the scanned areas, and the force concerned isn't so concerned about anywhere else, that may still count as a success. So keeping the top 100 targets out of London may be good enough, from London's point of view.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Minority Report: Predictions for when this Biometric info is hacked / leaked by rogue insider?

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/05/17/the_eyes_have_it/

  3. }{amis}{
    Mushroom

    "Anyway, it's only a trial - and it's what the public would want!"

    Yes, we really want idiots that cant operate a pocket calculator without help doing the digital equivalent of juggling live grenades through a playground!

    1. Haku

      Re: "Anyway, it's only a trial - and it's what the public would want!"

      That's right up there with people who genuinely use the phrase "think of the children" - they're only using that 'rally cry' to hide whatever their actual agenda is.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "Anyway, it's only a trial - and it's what the public would want!"

        Well my team and I really concerned ourselves fundamentally with a statistical analysis of violence as a whole in tandem with and related to a psycho-chemical and broadly speaking a behavioral analysis of over a thousand individuals and we've come to the inevitable conclusion that the one course of action

        that the authorities must take is

        to cut off their goolies facial recognition carpet bombing

    2. jmch Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "Anyway, it's only a trial - and it's what the public would want!"

      "I think the public would expect us to be thinking about how we can use that technology,"

      Note the assumption that this is what the public wants. I think if they actually, you know, ASKED the public, they might get a different answer

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Anyway, it's only a trial - and it's what the public would want!"

        Which is exactly why they never ask the public, unless it’s a small, safe and entirely clueless sample who get asked completely misleading questions, e.g. the initial ID cards ‘consultation’ a decade odd ago. Post outcry, the v2 sample were less compliant.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Always beware when an officials says everyone wants something because every single time it will be the opposite. A bit like everyone's browsing history to catch terrorists, just wait till they start using that for it intended purpose and we'll see if the general apathy continues. That'll be the same with this, people won't care until it's too late.

    1. Vometia Munro

      Yeah, I'm thinking its most likely purpose is to help secure dodgy convictions using the "behaving in a suspicious manner as according to Daily Mail readers" rationale now seemingly being equivalent to proven beyond reasonable doubt. I mean considering there's been high-profile convictions where using an online pseudonym has been declared before the court (and IIRC indeed stated by the judge) as evidence of guilty conduct and has resulted in people being told they are only allowed to use their real name. So data provided by this arse-headed scheme couldn't possibly have a risk of being similarly misused and misinterpreted. It's what The Public™ (as defined by the aforementioned DM readers) wants, and the public must always get what it wants when it's convenient.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

    The current commissioner of London's Met Police was in charge of the operation is which Charles De Menezes was executed. His "crime" was to walk out a building which a terrorist suspect had entered that morning. He then went to catch the tube, sat down and then was grappled by an undercover policeman and shot in the head 7 times by armed officers under the jurisdiction of Cressida Dick. Either she was complicit in this travesty of policing (worthy of Mexican\Colombian drug cartels), or she was incompetent because she didn't manage to clarify if Operation Kratos was in effect (the Shoot to Kill policy for suicide bombers).

    So now we want to use computerised facial recognition...

    I think we should roll it out immediately at the Houses of Parliament, to filter out suspected Terrorists to protect that very important place where very important work is done.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

      The current commissioner of London's Met Police was in charge of the operation is which Charles De Menezes was executed

      She's also sat on her useless fat arse and achieved nothing whilst knife crime and moped assisted robbery have skyrocketed. Maybe they could give her another undeserved public sector gong for her persistent under-achievement?

      From a "diversity & inclusion" perspective, it is good to see that we have a woman leading London's finest, and she's showing that she'e every bit as good at blokes when it comes to being fucking useless.

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

        "she's showing that she'e every bit as good at blokes when it comes to being fucking useless"

        Incompetence is an equal-opportunity employer

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

          British Prime Ministers have been proving for a while that gender is no barrier to being an arsehole.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

      "the operation is which Charles De Menezes was executed."

      Execution happens as the consequence of a trial and sentence. There was no trial in his case. Looking for a more appropriate word...

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

        If you think about it logically

        The current system has 98% false positive rate, Charles De Menezes was falsely identified.

        So if we set it the system to hunt down and kill Charles De Menezes, he would have a 2% chance of escaping - which was better than he got.

      2. oldfartuk

        Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

        True. The Met Death Squad probably has a word for it.

    3. Oflife

      Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

      Menezes reacted in all the wrong ways, the police had NO idea he wasn't the terrorist. He was illegal and had been working on the underground as part of his job, so they had no reason to be know they had the wrong man. He jumped the barriers when the police were chasing him, because he thought they were onto the fact he was illegal, and they thought he was a terrorist with a bomb in his bag. What did you expect them to do if he had a dead man's bomb trigger? (Hence headshot to freeze his fingers.)

      BTW, I am totally opposed to a surveillance state, an excuse for poor on foot policing.

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

        Bullshit. He did not "jump the barrier when the police were chasing him". He wasn't running. He walked through it using his card like everyone else. He got on the train like everyone else and sat down. The rest, plus the "fact" that he was wearing a long coat (again bullshit) was just BS leaked to the press to cover up the massive screw-up in the operation. There were plenty of eyewitnesses, which is how the truth came out.

        1. oldfartuk

          Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

          well, once you discounted the plain clothes police officers sent into the crowd to talk to the press and disseminate the Truth According To Cressida Dicks. This disinformation ploy only worked for a few hours until they 'witnesses' were spotted by those who knew them as police officers.

      2. oldfartuk

        Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

        He was unarmed. Two officers had him pinned down in a seat and immobilised. Other officers were on the way. He was, therefore no danger or threat to anyone as he was under control. So the decision to then execute him by shooting him 7 times at point blank range was entirely unjustied or necessary. He was de facto executed without trial,

    4. oldfartuk

      Re: The spectre of Charles De Menezes has no face...

      Might I add....Dicks also masterminded the disinformation campiagn in the first few hours to try and cover it up, and then when that failed she switched to Whitewash mode to contain the fallout from the trials. Having done her bit for the corrupt UK police force, she got her 30 pieces of promotional silver.

  6. walatam

    So, the technology is not very good and you have little faith in it producing any real volume of high quality results. Yeah, I can see the sense in continuing with it.

  7. Elmer Phud

    Or . .

    "As a result of this system we have managed to reduce the head count dramatically - well, someone had to pay for it and I need a new car so . . ."

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "I think the public would expect us to be thinking about how we can use that technology"

    Yes, innocent members of the public would expect the Met police to use a technology that might wrongly identify them as being wanted. Especially when the force is under the command of someone who has form for running an operation that ended in the shooting of an innocent man wrongly identified as being wanted, an event one would reasonably have expected to have been the end of her career.

    Whoever thought it would be a good idea to promote her to a position which requires the trust of the community?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      promote her to a position which requires the trust of the community?

      He was a slightly brown person that came out of a council tower block and went on public transport.

      She was promoted by a community that isn't remotely brown, would never dream of visiting a council tower block (except after it burned down) and thinks everyone on public transport should be shot as a matter of hygiene

      1. James O'Shea

        It’s been nearly 40 years, but I still recall my last, my very last, experience on British public transport, a bus in central London. In particular I recall the smell. In times both before and since I’ve been on public transport in various Caribbean countries, the US, India, and parts of Africa. That bus in London still stands out, and that means that it beat out rural Kenya, which ain’t easy. If I’d had a pistol, certain others on that bus would have been shot, no doubt to the cheers of everyone else. In any case, my international bus experiences are why I will never, ever, set foot in public transport ever again.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The London Transport Omnibus

          is nowhere near the worst in the world.

          Almost the worst was a bus in Madagascar (Tulear to Morondava) where a truck that could take 20-30 has at least 100 people on board plus animals (chickens, goats and even the odd pig), baskets of produce on the roof and a couple of Honda 50 lookalikes on the Truck cab roof.

          But probably the worst was a local bus in La Paz Bolivia after the weekly market and a fiesta. They smells were overpowering especially the huge number of people who farted.

          A London bus even a Night Service on a Saturday night is mild by comparison.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The London Transport Omnibus

            ”... 100 people on board plus animals (chickens, goats and even the odd pig)“

            I think my most unnerving transport experience, in the late 70s, was a rather tired Sud Aviation Caravelle on the mercifully short hop from Quito to Guayaquil in Ecuador. About half the passengers seemed to have brought either chickens or rabbits and there were a couple of skinny goats / mountain sheep tied up near the toilet at the rear, next to a precarious stack of crates of fruit/veg. The sheep / goat / whatever’s stank, but at least took your mind off the probable airframe hours of a twenty odd year old Caravelle and the collection of bent and broken aircraft at the side of the runways.

  9. James O'Shea

    May I suggest?

    Step 1: purchase cans of spray paint. I understand that red, blue, and black work best.

    Step 2: from a separate location, purchase full-face masks.

    Be sure to use cash. Better yet, get someone else to buy them ,at widely separated locations, using cash.

    Step 3: put on mask, find cameras, apply spray paint in a vigorous vertical motion to the lens array of any and all cameras in sight.

    Step 4: commence the maneuver known best as Get The Hell Out Day Of Here.

    Step 5: repeat.

    In order to protect their cameras, they’ll have to, you know, STATION A BLOODY COPPER AT EACH LOCATION, THEREBY ACTUALLY HAVING A DAMN POLICE PRESENCE ON THE BLOODY STREET.

    But maybe I think too highly of the Met’s brands brainpower.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police commissioner"

    That is truly a gift to us commentards. And yet -like a tweet from Trump- where the hell do you start with that?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "That is truly a gift to us commentards."

      Her back story is too atrocious to make jokes about her name. If you don't know it there are enough clues up thread to guide your research.

  11. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    have to say she doesn't have a very good record identifying people. and it's not so much the "lots of arrests" we need to worry about, but the random shootings by anonymous and unaccountable cops.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The tyranny we accept today

    Is the norm we accept tomorrow.

    - Anon

  13. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

    It is immaterial whether you like it or not. This technology will come eventually, it will become reliable and it will be used.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      "It is immaterial whether you like it or not." - Trues, they'll ram it through anyway

      "This technology will come eventually..." - Yes

      "...it will become reliable..." - No it won't. As someone above already pointed out, when you're looking for many thousands among a pool of millions, even the tiniest error rates will give tens of thousands of false positives, and you'll still have false negatives.

      "... and it will be used." - Unfortunately, yes, it will be forced through

  14. jmch Silver badge

    I wonder...

    How many real live policemen could be trained and assigned to actually patrol the streets with the money being spent on this system?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I remember when they debated the use of CCTV. It was put up all around Camden Town. One night, the local newspaper spent a weekend night in the control room. Here they witnessed fights, people being assaulted and various other criminal activity. When asking what will happen, the person in the control room stated that nothing would happen unless somebody reports a crime!!! Meanwhile, known suspects, who should be being monitored appear to be being left to commit crimes (look at the Manchester terror attack). Why should such technology be introduced, infringing on peoples Human Rights, when the Police do not use other tools such as CCTV properly? How long until an ex with a grudge starts to mis-use the technology, as has happened in other cases? Will they need a warrant to add to the 'watchlist' that allows them to use this technology to stalk or will they be granting themselves the permission to do this?

    1. Oflife
      Flame

      PM May is a control freak and has been a fan of all this total surveillance from day one. She is in a way like the face that appears in all the 1984 artwork on that big screen. The cameras are to watch us, not terrorists, who could be anyone. Blogging some hard truths or planning a protest, expect to be followed.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Masks and war paint...

    Surely these are not (yet) illegal.

  17. oldfartuk

    "When asking what will happen, the person in the control room stated that nothing would happen unless somebody reports a crime!!! "

    There was recently a case where a posse (100+) of those citizens of the Travelling persuasion took over Thwaites Brewery, wrecked it, and stole a large amount of its metalwork. This was all watched passively by a large number of the Lancashire Constabulary, who were entirely disinclined to prevent to criminal damage, theft, burglary and other miscelleanous crimes occuring right in front of them, and who even helpfully opened the main gates so vanloads of stolen copper could be taken to the scrapyard.

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