back to article Chinese government has got it 'spot on' when it comes to face-recog tech says, er, London's Met cops' top rep

The Chinese government has an unlikely supporter of its facial recognition program: the head of London's Metropolitan Police union. Ken Marsh, who represents the force's officers in the UK capital, appeared on BBC Radio Essex on Friday to respond to a report by the University of Essex that said the Met's own use of facial …

  1. Magani

    Decisions, Decisions...

    There are two parts to this. One is the technology; the other is what you do with it.

    One suspects that those behind the Great Firewall have less than altruistic motives with regard to the second part.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Decisions, Decisions...

      Given what we know about the role of social media as a tool in destabilizing governments its pretty obvious that any independent state would want control of Internet traffic, especially social media sites and any incoming traffic that might be malicious.

      I'm not saying that this is necessarily a good thing, just that you can't blame states for wanting to defend their borders. It probably doesn't matter to people who live in the UK, they're already owned by the NSA, but for countries that see the US as a potential adversary it would be wise to take precautions.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Decisions, Decisions...

        I "can't blame states" for wanting to control the internet traffic going through them in the interest of state security? I bloody well can, my friend. It's wrong by nearly every metric. It's censorship, violations of privacy, in itself breaks several human rights laws, and opens the doors to many more intense violations typically characteristic of dictatorships. Every country that does that, whether their control is just watching the traffic, blocking traffic, or manipulating traffic, gets as much blame as I can dish out. China, blame. U.S., blame. Russia, blame. U.K., blame. The sooner they cut it out, the better. To the extent I can, I intend to support movements that result in the cutting out of this unjust and completely blameworthy activity.

        1. BrownishMonstr

          Re: Decisions, Decisions...

          You could phrase it as this : if you were in charge of a country and you're suspicious another country would try to take you out of power. What would you do?

          To what extent would you infringe your citizens' rights and freedoms to protect the country. You of course think you're running the country the best way you could, the enemy doesn't give a shit about your country, so you should therefore protect the country for its people

          Very few people, if any, think themselves as evil, so they feel justified in what they do. Likewise governments will they are doing the best for everyone, as much as the people deserve it. Whether you disagree with them is a matter of opinion. Right and wrong are what we define them to be and they inherently change in time, culture, etc.

          Well, I think the OP was talking about that.

      2. nematoad Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Decisions, Decisions...

        "...just that you can't blame states for wanting to defend their borders. "

        Which begs the question: Who is the state for?

        It might be that to those of an authoritarian mindset like Ken Marsh the state's only interest is the state itself and anything done by the state to its citizens is acceptable.

        To others, including me, the role of the state is to help protect the rights and privileges of the people who make it up. The state is an artificial structure, it has no purpose other than to serve the citizen.

        Of course Marsh finds the actions of the Chinese government correct, the people running China have the same attitude as he obviously does.

        1. Flywheel Silver badge

          Re: Decisions, Decisions...

          The state is an artificial structure, it has no purpose other than to serve the citizen

          Right on the first part, wrong on the second part (IMO). The State needs to perpetuate itself and will do the absolute minimum it can to ensure the citizen can help it achieve that but not have enough resources to challenge or rebel.

          1. Teiwaz

            Re: Decisions, Decisions...

            The State needs to perpetuate itself and will do the absolute minimum

            The State wants to perpetuate itself. Necessary, to some extent, but it tends to become the primary goal to the detriment of any other concern.

            A good example is a department or body to 'tackle' some 'issue' or 'problem' of concern to some interest group. Once it exists, this body will actively seek to ensure the problem continues to be a relevent issue, from seeking to expand the scope of it's purview, increasing the size of the problem or allying with extremist or fringe interest groups with similar concerns.

            e.g you start off with a body to tackle underage drinking problems, but soon enough this body has expanded to adult drinking and allied itself with fringe anti-alcohol, temperance league nuts and spend more effort trying to get its budget increased and it's purview expanded.

        2. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Decisions, Decisions...

          Police Force spokesbod professes like for actions of a Police State.....>

          On the upside we seen to have found an honest plod, all we have to do now is dissuade him from the belief we think this is all ok.

          1. JassMan Silver badge

            Re: Decisions, Decisions...

            He will continue to believe his system is wonderful and there is nothing to be afraid of, even after he himself ends up in prison for kiddy fiddling or similar. The computer said it so it must be true.

  2. ST Silver badge

    When it comes to civil liberties and human rights ...

    ... China's track record is flawless. Right up there with North Korea.

    So why shouldn't you trust a 24/7/365 facial recognition secret surveillance system that is working so well for the Chinese Government?

    1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

      Re: When it comes to civil liberties and human rights ...

      So why shouldn't you trust a 24/7/365 facial recognition secret surveillance system that is working so well for the Chinese Government?

      We say that now, but what is CURRENTLY happening are two different things.

      Take, for example, the NSA. Do you honestly believe that they don't have some form of face recognition currently going on?

      The difference between the Chinese state apparatus and the western security organization is that the Chinese are not keeping it secret.

      1. ST Silver badge

        Re: When it comes to civil liberties and human rights ...

        > Take, for example, the NSA.

        No, I won't take NSA for example, as this article has nothing to do with NSA.

        The article is about facial recognition surveillance systems, and their use by the Chinese Government. And about some Met idiot - who appears to be in awe of the Secret Police Surveillance State concept - decided it would be a really good idea to do the same in the UK, and started advocating for it on the Telly. Because, according to said idiot, the Chinese got it spot on! and it will catch terr'ists!

        Nothing to do with NSA. Unless you get paid to deflect from the topic of the Chinese Secret Police Surveillance State, its human rights abuses and lack of due process.

        I bet you're a Huawei fan too.

  3. martinusher Silver badge

    China's not England

    Although this might be obvious it does need restating -- Chinese society is different from England's, there are different expectations for privacy and how people should behave in public. That said, it would appear that the society is at last as 'free' as UK society is, its just different- (and not to my taste).

    The concern with facial recognition software shouldn't be with it not working properly. We all know it works quite well and is likely to get a lot better in the near future. Its really just an upgrade of the traditional PC Plod who knows everyone on his beat -- there aren't beat coppers around these days for the most part so we've got RoboCops instead. What needs to be carefully regulated is how its used, and in particular any attempt to criminalize the actions of people who are trying to defeat the system.

    1. kierenmccarthy

      Re: China's not England

      So pretty much what the report's authors said:

      * This can be easily abused

      * We saw it in use by the Met itself and believe that they were abusing it too

      * We think this shouldn't happen until there are rules

      * Those rules should come from a broad public discussion

      Done and done.

      And then the Met's guy pops up and says: you know who's doing this right? The Chinese government.

      Hence the story.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: China's not England

      "Its really just an upgrade of the traditional PC Plod who knows everyone on his beat"

      It isn't and I at least wouldn't want that either. Facial recognition isn't a police officer seeing a person and going "That guy is typically here". It's a system that records my presence, possibly reports me as someone I'm not, then keeps my picture on file and cross-lists it with any other pictures from other places and other times, because they've said they're not going to erase any of this data. That's not what a normal police officer does. In fact, a normal police officer shouldn't spend a lot of time identifying unfamiliar people anyway because sometimes we people visit places we don't frequent, and we're perfectly within our rights to do that.

      Now let's deal with your contention that this is just an upgrade of the previous role of a police officer. I don't want my police officers upgraded. We've spent a long time trying to give police enough power to stop crime without giving them enough power to harm citizens' rights. There are lots of ways we could "upgrade" the capabilities of a police officer. Let's start with the easy stuff: remove the pesky requirement to get warrants before searching places. That will speed things up dramatically. It will probably also increase the number of criminals arrested, because there are a few people who find out a warrant is being sought and destroy the evidence before the officer gets there. There would actually be some benefits to removing the warrant requirement. The only problem being that WE NEED WARRANTS TO PROTECT PRIVACY! We need a lot of these restrictions on police activity to protect privacy. Without them, the police become a much too powerful institution, prone to massive corruption and criminal activity in their own right. That's a profound downgrade, and we should not let it happen.

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        Re: China's not England

        Yes, yes. A hundred upvotes!

        Policing is hard, and I have great respect for those who do the job (with the exception of the idiot this article is about, obviously).

        Unfortunately for them, it is deliberately hard, and will not get easier: that is what we (law-abiding society) want. Policing could easily be abused by those in power (inside or outside the police force) and it will remain cash-strapped, difficult and subject to hard decisions about how to prioritise resources. Because that is the only way to protect society from a police state while keeping crime to low levels.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: China's not England

      Part of what you say is true, they are 'free' to live their lives to a certain extent, and they won't miss what they never had in terms of freedoms, and the poor general education of the population makes some government intervention a requirement at the social level.


      They don't have freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to protest.

      They don't have an independent judiciary, they don't have open trials, they don't have an independent free press (although the benefits of that are dubious considering western press)

      If you had all this taken away suddenly you would be mad, and it is being eroded by our awful leadership.

      Despite what I see as their governments poor choices, I like China, the Chinese people are great and generally happy with their lives, their government is doing what they believe is the right thing even if I disagree, so I would never actually say anything to citizens about these topics because it would be unfair to them to push my opinion onto them.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: China's not England

      I agree that China is very different from the UK, but I disagree with the reasons you give for the differences.

      The key difference between China and the UK is that in China, the state is almost always right regardless of the action taken. This means that their "successful" use of facial recognition is likely to be suspect. Facial recognition identies you as X so therefore you must have committed the crime and you then depend on the Chinese police and legal system to avoid prosecution.

      "The concern with facial recognition software shouldn't be with it not working properly"

      This is exactly the reason we should be suspicious of both the Met's use of facial recognition (their identification rate is approaching 81% false positives based on the Met's own admission) and citing Chinese success.


      "Professor Pete Fussey and Dr Daragh Murray evaluated the technology's accuracy at six of the 10 police trials. They found that, of 42 matches, only eight were verified as correct - an error rate of 81%. Four of the 42 were people who were never found because they were absorbed into the crowd, so a match could not be verified."

  4. b0llchit Silver badge

    You are guilty

    Just admit it! You are guilty. Please enter the door on your right while we throw away the keys to the room. See, you are guilty and you know it. No denying, please, you have nothing to fear while guilty.

  5. C_H

    We the public need to...

    ... build our own (pi/opencv) open source facial recognition database from cameras pointed at parliament and police HQs.

    Then when any police chief or politician opens their mouths; we present them with their movement history, attendance, known associates, and related vehicle registrations.

    I'm sure it would be very interesting data, in the public interest, full of wonderful inaccuracies we can present as facts... would be legislated against in a heartbeat.

  6. beep54


    When reading things like this, I can't help but hear Cartman yelling, "Respect my authoritah!!"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cartman


      Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority” and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person” and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.

  7. TDog

    So tell me officer

    You have detained me on the basis that you have identified me with an alleged offender, such justification being on a purely computerised system with no human evaluation at all. What happens next? I am going to leave right now as you have no particular justification for stopping me. After all, you can always find me again should you need to.

    You have no valid justification to arrest me, and should you so try then I will attempt to depart. Should you attempt to stop me you will have to explain and justify your actions to the legal system of the UK.

    Now that is what should happen. It becomes more difficult day by day (Think of the Children / Victims)!

    I have arrested a police officer for "impersonating a police officer", but that was about 25 years ago. He wasn't playing by the rules and attempted to bully me. These days it is much more difficult to resolve this sort of nonsense. When you can be arrested for obscuring your face against a trial of facial recognition software we live in a world of deep fake; we have faked the perception of justice and replaced it with the processes perception of what the law should be.

  8. IGotOut Silver badge

    Think about the opportunities!

    "Sorry to have stopped you sir, we had you flagged as a terrorist, but I can now see you have no weapons or bombs on you, you are free to go"

    "No problem officer, thanks for the tip off. I'm off to (insert city) now"

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Think about the opportunities!

      More likely "Armed police! Hands up else *bang* *bang* *bang**bang**bang**bang**bang**bang* ... *bang**bang* ... [reload] ... *bang**bang* .. *bang* Uh, call an ambulance, someone."

      "OK, Sarge. And I'll just kick this chair leg he was carrying into an alleyway."

  9. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

    Uneven Distribution

    So the system gives 4 false positives for every success, but it's OK because the Police will politely apologise.

    However, in daily use those false positives won't be evenly distributed. There will be some people who look sufficiently similar to a suspect that they get stopped ALL THE TIME! Fortunately, sooner or later they will get so annoyed they will swear at or hit an officer, so they can then be safely arrested. Job Done, another dangerous person off the streets.

    New crime: Impersonating a Criminal.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Uneven Distribution

      And given previous reports into hilarious machine-learned facial recognition mistakes, it'll screw up more if you're black... Just like the real Police.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Uneven Distribution

        Having spent an afternoon in the cells after the Met fucked up identification, they put 2 and 2 together and somehow came up with 349,271,232.2.

        I can assure you it's not nice, they don't apologise and nobody should have to accept that as a necessary cost of policing.

        1. Mike Pellatt

          Re: Uneven Distribution

          Indeed. It's never (fortunately) happened to me, but that bland assertion he comes out with that "if you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to be worried about" flies in the face of all the, errr, evidence.

          Incredible that a 21st century copper should actually come out with that. No self-awareness whatsoever.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: Uneven Distribution

      80% failure rate. And the 20% will be people wanted for putting their bins out on the wrong day.

      And the police will waste a lot of time investigating all those false positives. They can't just say "Excuse me sir, are you <insert name of public enemy no. 1 trrst>" and then when the person says, "No", respond with a swift, "That's fine then sir, sorry to have disturbed you, mind how you go, have a nice day".

      No, they'll have to call out a van and armed support (well, the 'suspect' is probably armed), run them in for 72 hours intensive questioning before realizing that the person really IS Anne Widdicombe, and not Osama Bin Laden (decd.), and THEN they can say "sorry to have disturbed you sir, mind how you go, have a nice day"

      Meanwhile knife-crime will continue to rise as all the plods left after May's cuts will be running around after non-trrsts.

      Cynical? Moi?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Uneven Distribution

        Ohhh - I see wonderful opportunities here. Can we craft a little adversarial image that makes a face recognition computer see 'Jihadi John' . Then weave it into 'Make Britain Great' baseball hats and lapel pins of that gurning merchant banker who launders Putin's money for the Brexit party?

      2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        Re: Uneven Distribution

        Pen-y-gors: "knife-crime will continue to rise as all the plods left after May's cuts"

        Things really are getting bad if the Prime Minister has taken to attacking people with kitchen-ware!

  10. Pete4000uk

    No racism but...

    how do systems like this work in China? I thought they all looked the same?

    1. mutt13y

      Re: No racism but...

      No smiley so ill reply

      they all look the same to *us* as we all look the same to them.

      We use different cues to differentiate faces which a dedicated part of our brain learns as we grow up.

    2. macjules Silver badge

      Re: No racism but...

      While they think we all look like Nigel Farage.

      1. Craig 2

        Re: No racism but...

        It's a great example of the pitfalls of biased / limited training data using AI*.

        *In this care we're the AI - Alleged Intelligence

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: No racism but...

        While they think we all look like Nigel Farage.

        Bloody hell. I'm never going to China again. I'd like to keep some shred of dignity.

  11. Pete4000uk

    If it flags me up

    as a wanted person in, say, Gloucester, I get the police on my back etc, will I get flagged up again in Cheltenham?

    How many times could I be misidentified?

    1. smudge
      Big Brother

      Re: If it flags me up

      How many times could I be misidentified?

      A few, but it should get better the more you are stopped. Because then the details about you that the system stores should become more and more reliable, so they will stop misidentifying you, and will start identifying you correctly.

      What's that? You've never in your life done anything wrong or been arrested? So you don't want us to keep your data in the system? But it's for your own benefit - do you really want us to stop you all the time?

      <Adds notes about your "anti-police" attitude, and sets flag appropriately.>

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: If it flags me up

        "A few, but it should get better the more you are stopped. Because then the details about you that the system stores should become more and more reliable, so they will stop misidentifying you, and will start identifying you correctly."

        And if the problem is that the system can't accurately detect facial measurements at a distance in a crowd due to incorrectly judging light and angles?

        I know it's supposed to be able to distinguish these things at a distance, but what if we really do look the same down to a few 100s of combinations of body types and face shapes and colours from 50+ meters?

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: If it flags me up

      as a wanted person in, say, Gloucester, I get the police on my back etc, will I get flagged up again in Cheltenham?

      Well, yes. We don't want you Glarrsta people coming over here and sullying the streets of our lovely town.

  12. 27escape

    and, I have to add, terrorists as well

    Sums it up for me, if they feel they have to justify things with some supposed terrorist threat (as if they were not also criminals), suggests that there is an understanding that its not good enough but they want the tech and ‘duh - terrorists’ is their justification

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    A significant part of this problem aside from the obvious to ntrusion of privacy, is the likely attitude of the officers when stopping a flagged individual.

    If the individual, who knows they are guilty of nothing, is then indignant or angry at being wrongly detained, the plod will immediately treat that as ' resisting arrest', disturbing the peace' or some other spurious charge that can be used to further detain the individual. One to get their own back and two to teach the individual that it's the police who have the power and are in the right, not citizens.

    Police thinking is that we are all guilty until proven innocent or they will make us guilty as they did with the chap who coveredhis face in the FR trial in London.

    1. LeahroyNake

      "If we stop someone incorrectly and they've done absolutely nothing wrong and we explain to them 'so sorry we've got this one wrong,'"

      Then arrest them anyway because.. I don't know, public disorder for not being happy about being stopped and searched maybe or Oh crap is that a screwdriver and a stanley knife in your toolbox.

  14. EBG

    be worried

    It's scary the extent to which the control freaks in .gov circles look in envy at the power of the Chinese gov.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if the fail rate was actually 80 per cent then it wouldn't be "fit for purpose."

    this and a few other quotes are pretty remarkable (at the same time: move on, nothing to see here). But then, what else would you expect, that he comes on the radio to say this technology (and the idea behind it) is scummy and incompatible with a true democracy? He'd be out of his job in no time, he's not stupid :(

  16. 0laf
    Big Brother

    The standard counter argument to "If you've done nothing wrong..." is "Do you have curtains/blinds on your windows? / Do you have a lock on your bathroom door". If the answer to any of those is 'yes' then, "What what are you doing in there that you need to hide from view? It must be criminal or immoral".

    Clearly the real answer is privacy, there are some things that most humans like to do on occasion in private that are neither illegal or harmful. It is (for now) still within my rights to take a shit without being watched.

    Facial recognician is effectively saying we suspect everyone of a crime until we have proved you have not. And you can't prove a negative. Therefore everyone is a criminal and under suspicion at all times.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't agree with a lot of what they do, they've got it absolutely correct.

    Ah, the irony, China used to copy ideas from the West, now the West is copying ideas from China, and publicly declaring China is a new standard to aspire to. On public radio, a public servant, paid from my FUCKING MONEY!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    catch criminals and terrorists and get them off our streets


  19. SolidSquid

    "I personally wouldn’t have any problem with it whatsoever because I'd like to think they're doing a great job and trying to catch criminals and terrorists and get them off our streets."

    Head of the London Met doesn't think police would treat him unfairly if stopped. In other news, water is wet

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wrongly identified Jean Charles de Menezes probably thought the same before being shot at point blank range.

      People soon forget the misinformation the Met put out that day regarding his death, attempting to say De Menezes aggravated the situation, when the reality was, he was just like you and I, going out his day.

      The Press lapped up the MET misinformation in the form of press releases, printed it all as gospel with no due diligence.

      In theory, the Police could set up a trip wire system that reported any journalist within 200m of Scotland Yard sniffing around, the possibilities are endless to cover up Police corruption with en masse facial recognition in place.

      Facial recognition will breed compliance by the Press. Copy and pasting is pretty much the norm as it is.

      1. TimMaher Silver badge

        And we know who was responsible for the op. when de Menezes was shot.

        She now has a great deal of power.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course the Chinese have got it spot on ...

    They are a dictatorship after all and is Ken suggesting we go down the same route?

    He is starting to sound more and more like the old German Stasi than a UK police officer representative.

  21. adam payne

    And then he identified one group who was getting it "spot on" – the Chinese government.

    Saying that is not going to help your cause only hurt it.

    "if you've done nothing wrong, I personally wouldn’t have any problem with it whatsoever because I'd like to think they're doing a great job and trying to catch criminals and terrorists and get them off our streets."

    Oh that old chestnut. It's laughable that he thinks you'd get treated fairly if stopped due to a incorrect flag. You'd be on the floor in cuffs before they even identified themselves.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      The whole attitude towards "If you've done nothing wrong..." is completely misleading, and may well lead to miscarriages of justice.

      Suppose a person has a paranoid streak, as many people do in one way or another, and is feeling guilty that they've dropped some litter, or missed a doctors appointment, or driven just over the speed limit. You know, something that may have at worst, a minor civil penalty, but no criminal issue.

      So, they see the cameras, and think "I'm just going to avoid that because I'm a bit worried" and then panic in some way, and turn away from the camera or obscure their face in a way that makes the police suspicious. Or that they've been mis-identified. The police may then try to intercept the person because they're trying to 'escape'. Recognizing they've been spotted, the innocent person, fearing the worst, turns and runs.

      With no reason other that the fact that they're running or they've been misidentified, the police think that it's worth trying to find out what they are running from, and pursue aggressively.

      And the innocent person then runs into a road, and is hit by a car and killed, or in a panic tries to fend off a police officer who is trying to use force to detain them, and is then arrested for being obstructive or abusive.

      I know people who are completely scrupulous about trying to not do anything wrong who obsess about very, very minor things, and who also dislike bringing attention to themselves, and in fact may resent or fear officious people in authority. Their insecurity and targeting by automatic facial recognition could very well lead to a scenario like the above.

      And these people are not mentally ill, they're just at one end of being normal, often quite timid people who just are not adjusted for the modern society that is getting worse by the year!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Worth repeating

        The nine principles were as follows:

        - To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

        - To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

        - To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

        - To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

        - To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour, and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

        - To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

        - To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

        - To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary, of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

        - To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

  22. Sooty

    politician speech

    "It's absolutely fantastic in recognizing what we're trying to do in catching criminals and, I have to add, terrorists as well,"

    It's just a shame it's not very good at recognising faces though...

  23. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Which part of...

    "Fuck off, copper" does he not understand?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Ken Marsh has admitted the tool is unfit for purpose, as it was proven to be only 20% accurate.

    As soon as the tech becomes widespread people will start disguising their faces in public, there will be lawsuits, there will be protests.

    I don't mind CCTV, I don't mind facial recognition tech being used retroactively to track suspects, but it should never be used pro-actively as a reason to stop someone, I am of the opinion that no one should be stopped by the police unless they are acting suspiciously.

    The money should be spend on more police presence, as simply having an officer walking the beat will deter minor criminals.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "As soon as the tech becomes widespread people will start disguising their faces in public, there will be lawsuits, there will be protests."

      I wonder how well Aussie cork hats would do as facial recog deterrent?

      1. TimMaher Silver badge

        Is it too late...

        ...for me to mention pixelated face masks?


        Available on t’web.

      2. theblackhand

        "I wonder how well Aussie cork hats would do as facial recog deterrent?"

        What makes you think that looking "Australian" will make you look LESS like a criminal?

        Or is your plan to be shipped to the colonies to avoid further facial recognition?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Arrest that officer now

    Sounds like the police are not doing their job again. They should have arrested their colleagues already for attempting this trial against the interests of the public. It'll just make policing harder in the long run.

  26. mutt13y

    80% False positive.

    You have to wonder what the false negative is.

    Either the system is deliberately tweaked to favour false positives or if the false negative is also high, even 50% then it would make the system total C**P

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In the trials we have:

      - 42 matches

      - 8 correct matches

      - 4 failed matches

      - an unknown sample size. Based on an error rate of 0.1%/1 in a 1000 for false positives, I assume it is ~34000 depending on rounding errors.

      Based on that I get:

      0.12% match rate

      0.1% false positive

      0.02% positive

      0.01% false negative

      But my maths maybe wrong

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        I don't know what calculations you tried, but I think you're missing a variable necessary for the calculation of the false negative rate, namely the number of people in the sample who were supposed to be detected. Given that the sample was "the public" and the number of faces in the database is known but the number of people in the database who were actually there is entirely unknown, I would say that, even with an estimation of total sample size that we can assume is completely accurate, we cannot determine or even estimate the false negative rate.

        I have no objections to judging the system as crap right now for its abysmal success rate and the unjust plans for its use.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'm basing the sample size on the false positive rate - 34 false positives at a rate of around 1 in a 1000 for ~34000.

          The sample came from 6 out of 10 trials and analysed by independent researches (

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Constable Savage


  28. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge

    Loss of trust

    That is what is happening; the more this goes on, the less trust the cops will get from the populace (they seem, at least at senior and government level to be doing their best to destroy any remaining trust that exists).

    I am also reminded of a very old fortune cookie: "As a computer, I find your faith in technology amusing".

    This slightly amusing statement has a very serious meaning; no technology is perfect and to get it to continuously work properly needs more than a simplistic approach (which is what the idiot in the article uses).

    Having been in technology for several decades, I have seen technology fads come and go: No technology over the last 50 years has really ever fully delivered on it's original premise in less than a decade or more (and even then it was only a small subset of all the fads that got there) and facial recognition is likely to have the same fate.

    Over the years I have noted that every 'problem' involves a government (or other public body) database, rather like the statement that if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. A tiny error rate in any such database translates into a frighteningly large number of people and therefore a single database (and therefore single point of error / failure) should never be used for anything like this.

    The technology as it exists today is far from fit for purpose and should not used to replace more traditional methods, which while far from perfect are at least covered by limitations on their use.

    As I have said elsewhere, AI / ML / NN is at present a fad. Considering that serious AI research has been ongoing for over 60 years and this is where it has got to, I am somewhat sceptical of the claims of so-called experts who should know better (but then their research grants depend on them saying those things).

  29. naive Silver badge

    Every beginnening is hard, but we will need it

    It is predicted that by 2050, there will be many cities with 10-20 million inhabitants.

    It is also said that 5% of the population engages in criminal activities varying from pick pocketing to Hanibal Lector like nut cases and drug dealers.

    The 5% of 20 million is one million people who have a criminal intent.

    Without electronic surveillance these cities will become unlivable and dangerous pools of crime, comparable to the large cities in Brazil today where the police recommends not to stop for red light after dark.

    Gaining experience with these technologies seems a good idea for police forces around the world so they are able to deal with mega cities.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Every beginnening is hard, but we will need it

      "The 5% of 20 million is one million people who have a criminal intent."

      Conversely, even a highly optimistic 5% false positive rate means a million innocent people inconvenienced at best, arrested or even shot at worst.

    2. smudge

      Re: Every beginnening is hard, but we will need it

      Without electronic surveillance these cities will become unlivable and dangerous pools of crime

      Errr, no. If it stays at 5% then it will be, relatively, just the same as it is now.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I, for one, welcome our fascist police state overlords

    They know what is good for me. Track me all the time, interrogate me any time, and arrest me and throw away the key - it's for my own good.

    Somewhere in a back room at Westminster, and Tory Government Official is wanking themselves into a frenzy over this possibility.

    Welcome to the Big Brother Stasi Nation of Great Britain.

  31. stratofish

    The automatic passport gates at airports don't work for me because I have the audacity to have a common first and last name.

    How is this going to be anything different. Some other unfortunate sod is going to have a lifetime of being arrested, detained and questioned because the computer thought he looked like someone dodgy when out in public. Profiling sucks ass, and unfairly targets some more than others.

    I propose we have a distributed and public crowdsourced app to track politicians and senior police/military figures 24 hours a day. If they are happy living with that then they can start to think about doing it to us. Only someone with something to hide would object of course...

  32. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Big Brother

    We're Not So Different, You and I...

    If only our politicians and cops now freed from European constraints, could get together with their politicians and cops, and letting their hair down find out such similar aspirations and aims for humanity they can together make a new world, and end this cruel war forever.

  33. rHiggs


    I can't stand it. You sit in a cafe with cameras pointing at your face from all directions. Libraries?! - cameras everywhere. Waterstones ... monitoring how consumers choose to buy books based on their cover - not bothered about the odd thief for their stock costs pennies.

    Every city is plastered with cameras, every alleyway, front of building, top of building.

    The other day a beggar briefly asked some ladies for change and immediately walked off. Meanwhile, XXXX Council jobsworth harassed those 3 ladies into giving a statement against the beggar when really they didn't want to. They just wanted to enjoy their coffees in piece whilst being filmed for AI machine learning purposes. Seriously, 15 minutes he harassed them and wouldn't take no for an answer.

    Getting a train?: Report anything suspicious "see it say it b0110ck5" - What's suspicious is making everyone suspicious of each other when you could instead be being filmed having a nice chat!

    I've seen no crime in tea rooms in the past 50 years ...

    Yet people still undertake dangerously on the motorway. Drive 50mph through narrow town centres, mounting the pavement.

    xxxk off cctv

  34. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Obvious solution

    It's bloody difficult to write an algorithm that reliably recognises faces. Too many faces have a similar appearance, and the same face will have a different appearance at different times. Which is most unfair. How is a government supposed to keep track of the plebs when they all look the same?

    So the obvious solution is to physically tag people's faces with something that a computer can easily differentiate. Instead of ID cards (which people can lose or leave at home and cannot be read from a distance), all it will need is a national program to tattoo large barcodes on people's faces. Say one on the forehead, one on the chin, and one on each cheek. Before you object, this can be done using invisible UV or IR reflective ink, so it will not be noticeable to the human eye. After the whole population has been tattooed, it can thereafter be automatically carried out at birth. Anyone who obscures their barcodes (say with scarves, hats or makeup) will cause the computers to flag up an unidentifiable citizen as soon as that person shows his face in public, so s/he can be speedily arrested. The illegal immigration problem will be solved immediately!

    It might sound a tad OTT, but think of the children. Besides, it will have no effect whatsoever on people who have done nothing wrong, so if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. Obviously Muslim women will be exempt on account of the fact that they cannot show their face for religious reasons. And, I suppose, anyone who chooses to self-identify as a Muslim woman.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Computer says check...

    The Police would probably be happy with any identification rate - every out of date low resolution camera can be used to generate 'possible matches', sufficient cause for a Police Stop. In other words a new justification for sus/stop and search. And when social media is routinely scanned to improve matches, similar to extending the DNA database computer will find a new category of convictible lookalikes.

  36. David 45


    Who does Ken Marsh think he's kidding? I would NOT be happy about being stopped myself. What if I was a businessman rushing for an appointment and their faulty tech. made me late? Or someone who had been taken ill, on the way to a doctor? How's about that, yer' honour? And just how long would it take to ascertain that I was just a totally innocent passer-by with maybe some vague resemblance to a known villain? What procedure will police use to clear people in the shortest possible time? I can see some suing taking place here for wrongful arrests. It's dangerous technology. This needs more thinking, methinks.........and THEN ban it, forthwith!

  37. Mummy's 'ickle soldier
    Big Brother

    Ring of Agys anyone? I sense a masterwork coming on...

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