back to article London's Metropolitan Police flip the switch: Smile, fellow citizens... you're undergoing Live Facial Recognition

The Metropolitan Police are using live facial recognition (LFR) in various locations in central London today after spending two years testing the technology. Most recently spotted at Oxford Circus, the vans are equipped with NeoFace's recognition software which runs captured images against a pre-specified list of wanted crimes …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to dig out the Guy Fawkes mask again then.

    AC not because I don't want this attached to my Reg username, I just wanted the icon --->

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Pint

      Beat me to it!! I was going to add the mask should be made of tinfoil!

      Now where is that foilhat icon!

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Hijab time

        Although a black guy in a guy fawkes mask would probably cause it to explode

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          You guys are not very imaginative. The thing to do would be to carry a life size photo of the face of a high-profile wanted criminal. Or get it screen-printed on your T-shirt (which I suspect would work). Lets' see how the police react when a wanted villain is spotted in a hundred different locations at the same time.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Facepalm

            @Cynic_999 - "Lets' see how the police react when a wanted villain is spotted in a hundred different locations at the same time."

            Uh... they make 100 arrests, and get successful convictions for "obstruction of a Police office in the course of his duty", or "wasting Police time", or "conspiracy to defraud", so their success statistics soar!

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              If they get a 100 successful convictions for people wearing masks, it will be the Police who are seen as the enemy.

    2. Danny 2 Silver badge

      You buy a pair of spectacles with LEDs. Then you replace the LEDs with IR LEDs. Then you walk around as normal as normal can be, except there is a glare hiding your face on any CCTV.

      We solved and deployed this before the Guy Fawkes masks were deployed by the anti Scientologists. I have a couple of related tips if anyone is interested.

    3. phuzz Silver badge
      Coat

      In the future yes, but for now just wear a normal surgical/dust mask, and if anyone asks you can just say "corona virus innit mate".

  2. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    That's not my picture

    He's Tuttle!

    1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: That's not my picture

      Now they really can arrest you for having your eyes too close together.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: That's not my picture

        Other offences include:

        Being caught in possession of curly hair and thick lips

        Wearing brightly coloured clothes in a built up area.

        I think this was from a Lenny Henry sketch if memory serves....

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: That's not my picture

          Your memory got some lines but not Lenny

          hint WInston Kodogo / Constable savage / NTNOCN

      2. Ken Shabby Bronze badge

        Re: That's not my picture

        It's a fair cop, but society's to blame.

  3. Alister Silver badge

    To be fair, the gentleman in Romford was arrested and fined for threatening to kick the living shit out of a Police Officer, although said Officer did originally accost him about hiding from the cameras.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      The old 'looking at me in a funny way' then resisting arrest while being given a kicking by 6 offices

    2. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

      @Alister,

      Once again no crime was committed until an officer goaded a citizen into a confrontation. This happens all too frequently (especially on this side of the pond where most police forces are pseudo-military) and there is no benefit to the public.

    3. genghis_uk Bronze badge

      It was on BBC Click if you want to check your facts - the guy was pulled over because he hid his face.

      The police were then 'robust' in their discussions (some could say aggressive and provocative) until the guy told them to f' off. At that point he was charged with a public order offence and given an on the spot fine.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        @ghenghis_uk: "given an on the spot fine"

        Indeed, and that was the chap's error, if he'd opted for his day in court, it wouldn't have got there. No way would they have pursued a conviction under these circumstances. I'd never accept an 'on the spot' anything.

  4. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
    Big Brother

    There is no legal requirement for you to pass through the LFR system.

    Yet.

    Do your public duty, Citizen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There is no legal requirement for you to pass through the LFR system.

      Your public duty isn't to oblige the police.

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Corona masking

    I think citizens have every right to mask themselves to help prevent infection spreading in a crowded city like London and should all wear medical masks a la China and Japan.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Corona masking

      Beat me to it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Corona masking

        The eyes give you away

        1. richdin

          Re: Corona masking

          Not only eyes - the ears are a big factor

          1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

            Re: Corona masking

            @richdin: "the ears are a big factor"

            Oi, who are you calling Big Ears?

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Corona masking

          "The eyes give you away"

          The system is terrible enough working on the whole face, it would surely go to even greater shittiness levels if it had to work just on the eyes

          1. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Corona masking

            Especially if the mask was printed to look like the bottom half of, ooo, let's say, Cressida Dick's face.

  6. DavCrav Silver badge

    "The 93 per cent misidentification rate poses a serious threat to innocent members of the public."

    Out of interest, what's the mis-identification rate when in the morning briefing a bunch of constables are shown a picture of someone the Met are after then told to keep an eye out for them? I suspect that it's comparable.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      I think we would know about that, but fine, let's assume it's comparable. So what? Looking for someone specific and getting it wrong is a lot different from looking at everyone just in case and arresting a big chunk of them. One is not speaking well of the police's competence; the other is a violation of various rights. Oh, and the other one also means that all the police's time is spent tracking down people who the cameras get confused by, meaning they are less useful at preventing crime or catching criminals.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        I'm saying that the average copper will see a photo of a 'young black lad' and then go around accosting young black lads.

        This method might be a bit less racist (but only a bit, as the algorithms have more trouble with black people apparently).

  7. LeahroyNake Silver badge

    The next step

    Getting arrested for wearing Dame Edna glasses or on your way to a fancy dress party.

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: The next step

      That sounds reasonable. Good idea, that man.

  8. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Unhappy

    "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

    I'm not surprised at all. Remember that Labour under Blair and Brown pushed through or carried on with all the GCHQ nastiness that Edward Snowden uncovered. And there was ID card-gate under Labour. Then Labour topped that off by taking CCTV and license plate readers national.

    Not that the Conservatives have proven themselves better when it comes to mass surveillance, but they absolutely haven't proven themselves worse either.

    1. genghis_uk Bronze badge

      Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

      Yet....

    2. ma1010 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

      So UK politics are about like ours here in the USA. You can vote for Democratic (Labour) and get mass surveillance and no rights, you can vote Republican (Conservative) and get the exact, same thing. I'm so glad we have the opportunity to vote. Right? Why the silence???

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

        One party justifies it for national security against furrin terrists, the other for protection against the greater threat of domestic criminals.

        Anyway, it''s for your own good, citizen. You have 10 seconds to comply.

      2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

        @ma1010

        No, in the U.S. if you vote Democrat you get mass surveillance and no rights. However, if you vote the Republican you get the reverse!

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

          No, in the U.S. if you vote Democrat you get mass surveillance and no rights. However, if you vote the Republican you get the reverse! ..... Marketing Hack

          Are you saying, Marketing Hack, vote Republican for mass rights and no surveillance, or is it a fertile emerging virgin market for hacking ‽ .

          Surely that's Extremely Elite Territory for Exploiting and Exhausting and/or Mentoring and Monitoring for Future Command and Control, Marketing Hack?

          Who is to acknowledge leading that program for Republicans? Or is it supposed and proposed to be an imposed unopposed top secret ...... which of course, now it isn't ?

          1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

            Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

            Seems like you have hit the nail directly on its head, Marketing Hack, with Michael Bloomberg, multi-billionaire Republicrat oligarch wielding the booby trap prize in his attempts to lead. ..... https://www.zerohedge.com/political/subcomandante-bloomberg-it-another-obama-wont-cut-it-folks-aint-buying-con-anymore

            Is that what they call the American Way, the gift that just keeps on giving the most to that and those proving themselves truly unworthy?

            Methinks that is catastrophically unstable and monumentally unsustainable and most likely to attract the dedicated revolutionary psychopath to its rank rank and file. It is certainly not in any way an intelligent root and route and therefore certifiably sub-prime insane in extremis.

    3. Lich

      Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

      ID Card gate? Its one thing I would bring in - it makes it a lot easier to prove who you are than proving utility bills etc.... of course until Boris 'got Brexit done' they would have doubled as a travel document in the EU.

      I live in an EU country (Malta) - everyone has ID cards (although technically mines an eResidency Permit) - the effective difference is I can't use it instead of a passport.

      It also ties into my driving licence as the driver number is the same as the ID card number.

      1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

        @Lich: "ID Card gate? Its one thing I would bring in"

        Ah, see, the problem isn't ID cards per se, although we do have a little bit of a problem with folks who stop us and ask us for our papers,.... but that aside, the very real problem is that successive UK govts have proven themselves utterly incapable of delivering large scale IT projects. There have been failed MoD projects, National Police Computer projects, Child Support Agency #1 (abandoned) #2 (more expensive to implement than it recovered in funds), NHS national patient database, Database of children (for child protection, abandoned), the projects that haven't utterly failed have gone vastly over budget and been delivered years late. Case in point, when I turned 16, (in the mid 80s) I was issued with a National Insurance Number card, a plastic credit card bearing my name and National Insurance Number, so all the data that held was name, NI number, DoB and address. They stopped issuing these a few years later because they were deemed too costly. let that sink in. How would they manage a wider data gathering / ID verifying system? There would be a cost to us citizens? Managed by whom,.... the previous verification platforms used by Govt systems haven't been a success, with one private provider bowing out and leaving all of it's users unverified. We can't have a private company cease trading and leave our citizens in limbo, so it must be a Govt project, and our Govt are just incapable.

        Maybe you could send your guys over to help?

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

          " the problem isn't ID cards per se, although we do have a little bit of a problem with folks who stop us and ask us for our papers"

          Spot on. For the government to be able to provide various services, and for citizens to be able to use these services, it is convenient that to have a form of identification that is universally available and universally accepted. (And as a database/ BI specialist, I also kind of like unique identifiers!)

          Everyone having an ID card / unique ID number doesn't give any busybody the right to request to see it (aka papers, please, citizen). Equally, the convenience has to be balanced by - does the gov REALLY need a unique identifier for each citizen? They would say yes but UK society seems to work well enough without.

          1. onemark03

            Busybodies entitled to see your ID card?

            @ jmch:

            Afraid that's not correct.

            If the law specifically requires citizens to identify themselves to the authorities on demand with an official photograph document, such as an ID card or a driving licence, as is quite common here in continental Europe, then you've got to comply.

            If you don't, you can expect to be fined and probably arrested.

            It stinks but that's the law.

            1. jmch Silver badge

              Re: Busybodies entitled to see your ID card?

              "If the law specifically requires citizens to identify themselves to the authorities on demand with an official photograph document, such as an ID card or a driving licence, as is quite common here in continental Europe, then you've got to comply."

              I've lived in various European countries in my lifetime, UK, EU and non-EU. Whatever the law actually says, in practice it is very rare to be asked for ID by the police in Europe (outside of traffic stops), and I've never been stopped and asked for ID in 40+ years in any European country. (Of course YMMV depending on what areas / people you frequent and/or your skin colour)

              In the case of traffic stops, being asked for a driving license is to establish whether you are allowed to drive a vehicle rather than to establish your identity - and this is the same in UK as everywhere else in Europe.

      2. Roj Blake

        Re: "appalled that [city mayor] Sadiq Khan has approved such....surveillance technology for London"

        It wasn't the cards that people objected to so much as the massive insecure database that propped the system up.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe push the idea of wearing "dazzle" makeup as the Next Big Thing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't make it easy for them.

      Only criminals wear dazzle masks ;)

  10. 1752

    Just the beginning

    Just cross reference it with the driving licence photo records and you could put a name to a high percentage of all people passing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just the beginning

      This is why my passport and driving licence have photographs of me carefully designed to break facial recognition.

      It works too, automated passport checking machines refuse to believe I'm the person in the photograph

      Plus I'm entirely naked in my passport photograph. Which is something no border official has yet commented on.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Just the beginning

        "Plus I'm entirely naked in my passport photograph. Which is something no border official has yet commented on."

        Forget about border officials, it's a head-only shot. But didn't cause a commotion in the shopping centre when you exited the photo booth?

        1. Bernard M. Orwell

          Re: Just the beginning

          Those booth curtains are short for a reason.

  11. wolfetone

    Yet another reason not to go to London.

    For the moment.

  12. Chris G Silver badge

    No-one would have believed in the twentieth year of the twentyfirst century that more and more of this world was being watched keenly and closely by tiny intelligences and yet full of their own importance; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.

    With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter, unaware or uncaring that the tiny intelligences were convinced of the wrong doing of every human.........

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Do we get to kill them all off with a virus that their bodies have no defense against?!? Cos I think we have a candidate for that!

    2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Hmmm? Now there's/here's a Novel AI Approach ... Real SP00Key Stuff and No Nonsense.

      With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter, unaware or uncaring that the tiny intelligences were convinced of the wrong doing of every human......... .... Chris G

      ..... and are thus themselves resolved and EMPowered to do everything almightily different and better than ever the systems of the establishment are programmed to do, for the intelligences they use are of an infinitely greater source with immaculate forces, is something to look forward to, Chris G.

      SMARTR IT guarantees it Presented for Beta Future Command with AI Control of the Virtual Machine with Global Operating Devices ...... you know, those simply complex ubiquitous keyboard interfaces at practically everyone's fingertips these 0days, nowadays.

      Coming now soon to all media screens surrounding you for escaping to ..... and no kidding.

  13. onemark03

    93 per cent misidentification rate

    @ davcrav:

    Right.

    The real worry is why the police deployed technology with a 93 failure rate in the first place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 93 per cent misidentification rate

      Sir Humphrey Appleby nailed it:

      - We must do something.

      - This is something.

      - Therefore, we must do this.

      But that was comedy :/

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Big Brother is here

    I am also wearing my mask

  15. Roger B

    I read somewhere about the UK loosing its protection under GDPR, google has already emailed UK registered users apparently? Would this allow police forces to use Facebook/social media photos with their LFR system giving them a bigger pool of known faces, even if those individuals have a criminal record or not?

  16. Barrie Shepherd

    Why now?

    Am I alone in thinking that the Met's urge to push this out so quickly is to get some high profile "wins" under their belt to use in the future debates about regulation of the technology.

    Being able to put forward the argument that "Look it let us find these lost children, and we caught a person accused of rape and a serial parking offender" will moderate the public abhorrence of the overall Orwellian project. Taken to the extreme the Met would argue that we all should have implanted transponders scanned by readers at every road intersection and rail station entrance.

    Of course the public will never know how the "watch list" will be construcred and even if it is used. Ultimatly the recordings will be archived along with the identitues of everyone seen in the area at that time.

    Very soon policing will be carried out by a bunch of crapita operatives, sat behind banks of screens. There will be no visual police presence in streets consequently the deterent effect will be lost.

    The Met, and other forces, are forgetting that policing should be balanced and with public support. They don't get mine for this invasive, suspect technology.

    Any further news about the BTP use of the tech around rail hubs?

    1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Why now?

      @Barrie Shepherd: "The Met, ,,,, are forgetting that policing should be balanced and with public support."

      I think the modern police force have pretty much torn up the nine principles and are now just using a paramilitary handbook. OK, so they have some right scrotes to deal with, but I'm not prepared to be treated like a scrote because of that. Even scrotes need habeas corpus.

  17. Robert Grant Silver badge

    This can be combated with an adversarial technique

    To counter NeoFace, everyone in London should buy and wear one of these: https://www.celebrity-facemasks.com/products/neo-matrix-celebrity-face-mask.html

  18. Black Betty

    Big Brother is here and he isn't going away.

    This is the state of affairs and it isn't going to change, so we're just going to have to figure out how to implement this in the most effective and least intrusive way possible. Only high quality images in the database, preferably including part or full profile; Secondary camera to zoom in on subjects of interest for a high-res comparison; decently speced computers; parameters tuned to err on the side of caution; a human in the loop to make the final call.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Big Brother is here and he isn't going away.

      Why isn't it going to change? The police are there to look after us with our consent, even if they have forgotten that bit temporarily. Sufficient public pressure would put this crap back in its box.

      1. Roj Blake

        Re: Big Brother is here and he isn't going away.

        In the UK the police's primary mission is to maintain public order. That thing about solving crimes and keeping the public safe is just a means to that end.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Big Brother is here and he isn't going away.

          Indeed, the ends justifies the means :/

        2. DropBear

          Re: Big Brother is here and he isn't going away.

          That is universally true. Police everywhere around the world is the blunt end of the state's domestic power. It's not meant to protect, it's meant to suppress. Criminals just happen to be closest and the most immediate target when it swings, but by no means the only ones hit.

  19. Roj Blake

    The most egregious thing about this...

    ...is the way the warning signs are propped against the van, so you only see them once you've been scanned.

    1. Loud Speaker

      Re: The most egregious thing about this...

      It is so they get a clearer view of your face when you stop to read the sign.

      The people who are really in control are "The illiterati".

  20. PapaD

    Adversarial glasses

    There are a number of companies doing research into, and building prototypes of what they call Adversarial glasses - essentially mundane looking glasses that baffle facial recognition systems, making it impossible to be recognised - often even as a human face, nevermind a specific person.

    The ones i've seen definitely look just like normal prescription glasses. If facial recognition becomes to pervasive, this technology will continue to develop to match it.

    There are other technologies being developed as well, what amounts to optical masking lights built into hats and clothing, preventing cameras from getting a decent picture.

    1. Roj Blake

      Re: Adversarial glasses

      That's precisely the sort of thing that will get banned if it becomes popular.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I could only find this ......

    https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-stop-facial-recognition-technology-installation

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I could only find this ......

      You don't appear to be aware that we now live in an authoritarian dictatorship.

      They never took any notice any notice of those polls even when their were millions of signatories - they not going respond now we have a one party state.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Flesh coloured balaclavas and dark glasses are going to be very popular,

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The police

    are not your friend.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    delayed or immediate

    re deal

    00kay so heres the goose

    fnl chk performed prev mrdrs proven

    ur2decide whether down or both IT and its meat would be good for the charity purposes

    trck my crd/

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Im researching ways (face accessoires) to transform into an unidentifiable identity for the surveillance cameras. Im really curious who would be interested in wearing them!?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020