back to article You can't have it both ways: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

Counter-coronavirus masks may thwart London police plans to deploy creepy facial-recognition cameras across the capital, senior managers have admitted. Two London Assembly members, Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem) and Sian Berry (Green Party), wrote to Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick, asking whether the "unreliable, …

  1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Why bother?

    London Police, why bother?

    The various police forces in the U.S. don't.

    They just find the first non-White person and shoot him.

    It is cheaper than getting it wrong with facial recognition and, if you follow the U.S. model, there isn't any accountability either.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Why bother?

      But we live in a nice safe country where helpful bobbies on bicycles help boy scouts across the road

      So we need facial recognition to confirm somebody is black (or at east Brazilian) before shooting them.

      Perhaps people could be required to wear colour coded face masks (black/brown/pink triangles/yellow stars etc) to simplify the software ?

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Why bother?

        Well Cressida Dick has good experience of getting a Brazilian done. She was the commander in charge of the Menezes shooting.

        1. John Jennings Bronze badge

          Re: Why bother?

          Owwww the image - I cant get it out of my head!

        2. Gra4662

          Re: Why bother?

          It certainly didn't harm her Police career, where's AC12 when you need them?

    2. Irongut Silver badge

      Re: Why bother?

      In London they prefer Brazillian plumbers but the effect is the same.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Why bother?

        Carrying a chair leg to repair is also acceptable for target designation.

        1. Insert sadsack pun here

          Re: Why bother?

          Or walking through a demonstration with your hands in your pockets

          Or sleeping naked in bed in Brighton

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why bother?

            Or "Treading on the Cracks in the Pavement" ...

            1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

              Re: Why bother?

              WIlfully continuing to live after being told to stop by a police officer

              Being in possession of curly hair and thick lips

              Living in a residential area during the hours of darkness

              Walking around with an offensive wife

              Wearing a loud t-shirt

              With thanks to Rowan Atkinson about 40 years ago - bloody hell!

              1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

                Re: Why bother?

                > Walking around with an offensive wife

                Well, fairs fair.

      2. Fred Dibnah Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Why bother?

        If a Brazilian plumber came to do a job for which you'd hired a Brazilian electrician, the effect would be quite different :-)

        1. a pressbutton Silver badge

          Re: Why bother?

          ... shocking.

    3. JCitizen Bronze badge
      Meh

      Re: Why bother?

      It is a wonder armed robberies haven't gone up now that everyone is wearing a mask; nobody would notice if a bank robber walked into a bank wearing one!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

    with our well-connected sources at Downing St, our RFID company with extensive experience in the field, going back to last week, is ready to take on this challenging task to rectify this face-mask related positive identification issue, in the name of safety, health and long-term prosperity of all UK citizens!

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

      So when you open your mouth to get the RFID chip inserted, they can tell you "Oh no, it goes in the other end!"

      (Icon is artist'ss conception of average British citizen putting their clothes back on after getting their chip inserted.)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

        Fortunately the same government would be in charge of procurement of the tracking chips. So there wouldn't be any, they would buy some that didn't work and then move them from one side of the warehouse to the other and claim they had been "delivered"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

          "Fortunately the same government would be in charge of procurement of the tracking chips"

          In theory, the UK civil service develops proposals and the government decides which to implement. The reality is that the civil service also makes many of the decisions as well during the proposal stage.

          A good recent example is CORVID19 test kits - Germany and the UK collaborated on testing plans. Germany implemented the plans via private testing as the health system didn't have the required testing capacity. In the UK, the NHS rejected private testing and failed to deliver the required level of internal testing initially before testing was opened up to private companies for pillar 2.

          The documentary series Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister covers UK governmental decision making remarkably accurately in how a good (or bad) decision can deliver the opposite result once it runs the gauntlet of the civil service, media and public opinion.

          1. FlamingDeath

            Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

            “The documentary series Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister covers UK governmental decision making remarkably accurately”

            I once heard someone describe the discourse that happens in Parliament as a “country run by mad banter”

            Basically there are a lot of fucktards in the world and somehow they’ve managed to worm their way into government and they’re calling the shots, truly fucking terrifying, I dont want to single any of them out, but I mean, just look at Gove, wtf, how does this happen?

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

              And with Johnsoon failing so badtly even the Fail is having a pop at him it looks as if Gove will shortly be our next unelected PM!

          2. Stork Silver badge

            Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

            It is impressive, Portugal. A poorer country with smaller biotech than the UK has tested twice the proportion of the population.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The reality is that the civil service also makes many of the decisions

            Of course the civil service are responsible for government policy when it's going wrong.

            If you can find something that's gone right in the UK then obviously that's because of the government. But you can't expect a bunch of feckless cunts like that to take responsibility for seeding the virus into care homes. How stupid would you have to be to kill off your core demographic? Must've been the civil servants!!

      2. FlamingDeath

        Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

        "Oh no, it goes in the other end!"

        Nice Idiocracy reference :)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Anti-coronavirus masks may thwart our creepy face-recog cameras, London cops admit

        One thumb (chip) in your mouth, one thumb in your a$$ and swap every thirty minutes...

  3. Phones Sheridan
    Devil

    Lookie likey

    This co-incides with a thought I had yesterday about a business selling facemasks that had a picture of a celebrity from the top of the nose down printed on it. If you had a similar hairstyle, or wore sunglasses and a cap then at first glance you would appear like the celebrity of your choice to passersby as they passed you at 2 meters whilst exercising. A few hundred Ariana Grande's and David Beckhams walking round town during the day would really screw up their database.

    That icon cos it looks like a facemask. Hmm I might just print one out!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lookie likey

      A face mask of a white celebrity is useful if you are melanin-challenged and fancy going jogging

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Lookie likey

        yeah I'd definitely choose the mask used for the 'anonymous' icon

        (I am the one wearing the Guy Fawkes mask in public to comply with "social distancing")

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lookie likey

        Surely if you are melanin challenged you are already white.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Lookie likey

          Challenged is not quite the same as deficient. And melanin challenged persons have a bit more than melanin deficient persons.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Lookie likey

            Nope. In "PC speak", challenged = deficient. EG Dwarfs being vertically challenged.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Lookie likey

              But it is PC to protect the challenged minorities. Or do you propose to call them leucine challenged?

              1. Jason Hindle

                Re: Lookie likey

                Well in this case, it does seem the Met have been a little thinking impaired.

                1. Unoriginal Handle

                  Re: Lookie likey

                  I thought we had to use the terms "thinking challenged" or "thinking deficient"...

                  1. Jason Hindle

                    Re: Lookie likey

                    No, those are both more negative terms. I regularly have to correct the old man - he uses "Hard of thinking" from time to time.

                2. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Lookie likey

                  Cognitively challenged.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lookie likey

        To provide more context, the latest victim of the "freedom can only be preserved with guns and stupidity, not education and a fair legal system" social policy, google Ahmaud Arbery.

        Or as an easy introduction, start here:

        https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-us-canada-52623151

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Lookie likey

      You're way behind.

      https://www.etsy.com/shop/evercoverhelmetcover

      Of course selling a celeb image in the USA is likely to get you sued...even if it slightly resembles them

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lookie likey

        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fawkes-function-Bandanna-Airsoft-Vendetta/dp/B0843TQLMP/

        Other vendors are available

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lookie likey

      The facial recognition concept is fundamentally flawed anyway since how can PC Plod identity anyone wearing a niqab or motorbike helmet? These totalitarians seem to be a bit thick in their desire to control us.

      1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Lookie likey

        Expect new legislation, coronavirus masks (and religious/cultural face wear) must have your name & address on with a bar code. And so must your face, like in Dennis Potter's "Cold Lazarus". Going out in someone else's will of course get you in big trouble...

        It has crossed my mind that putting your name on the religious version (not address) should not really offend modesty, which is what it's supposed to be about apparently, and would meet complaints by people like Jack Straw and even actually be useful. I've seen my own surname mutilated in writing, although less often recently.

        Actually though, I think the creepy black elastic ear-masks that I've been wearing would be improved by a cheery message. I thought about stitching "Hello!" across the front, but pricking little holes in it seems counter productive.

        1. JohnG Silver badge

          Re: Lookie likey

          "Expect new legislation, coronavirus masks (and religious/cultural face wear) must have your name & address on with a bar code."

          How about everyone has a QR code tattooed on their forehead? The police could generate more fun if all the codes have a checksum of 666

      2. jospanner Bronze badge

        Re: Lookie likey

        Oh that's easy. They just ban the use of such things in public.

        Never try to catch authority out on a technicality, they'll just legislate it out of the way.

    4. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: Lookie likey

      White celebrities all look the same to me anyway.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lookie likey

        "White celebrities all look the same to me anyway."

        That's unfair - there are many different shades of shit...

  4. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I predicted this a few weeks ago that face masks may make current facial recognition tech a dead duck. And i predict it will be a lot longer than a few months that people will be wearing face masks, it might become the normal as it has become common to see people in them in several Asian cities since they had their SARS and then MERS out breaks.

    As even if a effective COVID vaccine is created in the next 12 months its not necessarily going to rid the world of corona virus just as the measles vaccine hasn't yet eradicated that disease.

    1. Graham 32

      For many years it's been popular to wear masks in parts of Asia. So this has already been thought about. I can only find recent references but I'm sure I saw something about facial recognition with masks being possible several months back. Here's a recent story: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-facial-recognition-idUSKBN20W0WL

      1. Beeblebrox

        Face Recognition

        Don't forget that you need some kind of goggles to protect your eyes from airborne coronavirus.

        May also give greater chance of defeating face recognition.

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Face Recognition

          I've been wearing wraparound sunglasses and a mask when I've been going to the shops. Good luck with that and my curent mop of hair at the moment.

      2. Paul Shirley
        FAIL

        I take that as confirmation it doesn't work well and covering your face doesn't make it much worse because it simply can't be much worse!

      3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        "For many years it's been popular to wear masks in parts of Asia."

        That's air pollution they're worried about, not CCTV.

        1. sabroni Silver badge

          re: That's air pollution they're worried about, not CCTV.

          In a lot of cases is because people have a cold and don't want to spread it to others.

    2. JohnMurray

      Especially as the anti-vaxxers are on the covid-19 vaccine case now.....or not on it....whatever

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "just as the measles vaccine hasn't yet eradicated that disease."

      Measles' survival has been greatly assisted by nutjobs. Perhaps is and when we get a Covid-19 vaccine a current vaccination will be required for international travel, being employed, etc. and measles just included with it. It still won't eliminate either but it would reduce it further.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >Measles' survival has been greatly assisted by nutjobs.

        Of course that's necessary to keep the people making the vaccine in business.

        So the anti-vaxers are part of a conspiracy by big-pharma, Bill Gates, George Soros and the Milk Marketing Board

      2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      3. jmch Silver badge

        "Measles' survival has been greatly assisted by nutjobs."

        Measles survival has been greatly assisted by many people not vaccinating. Some have valid health reasons not to do so or be willing to take any risks. When my son got vaccinated he had a bad reaction. A colleague of mine was also hospitalised and then home for 2 weeks following a routine flu jab. Some people have decided that they simply don't trust whatever their government tells them regarding vaccinations, and given what BS governments try to sell, I can sympathise. Either way, calling people with valid concerns 'nutjobs' is not helping.

        The reality is that even though vaccines are mostly safe, they are not totally safe, and even tiny adverse reaction rates will result in numerous victims if applied to large populations. Even though vaccinations might give better health outcomes to the population in general, there are still individuals who will be worse off vaccinating than not.

        More education and more transparency is what is needed, not name-calling

        1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
          Alert

          I had a bad reaction to a Tetanus injection after I had had a road accident. I am therefor not allowed to give blood, in case I sensitize the recipient of my donation. Similarly, more recently I had a near death experience because of the inclusion of Sodium Metabisulphite as a presevative in pain killer medicine I was prescribed after a heart operation. I now have to be very carerful about reading the labels of any foods I buy because I have become sensitized to it, even something as innocuous as Branston Pickle in a cheese sandwich can set me off and confine me to bed for a couple of days. Not all Nut Jobs are actually Nut Jobs, some of us have reasons to beware.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Pirate

      "i predict it will be a lot longer than a few months that people will be wearing face masks"

      MANDATORY mask wearing is a BAD thing [and does little to help with disease control]. However, VOLUNTARY mask wearing, which is common in S.E. Asia, is a GOOD thing if you know you're sick and don't want to give your cold/flu to others. So if it simply becomes "acceptable" it's DEFINITELY a GOOD thing [common sense vs insane panic-fear-based mandates].

      That and I don't like being ORDERED to do things that are unnecessary and/or inconvenient.

      (so I'll keep wearing the Guy Fawkes mask until the nonsense stops)

      1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
        FAIL

        "That and I don't like being ORDERED to do things that are unnecessary and/or inconvenient."

        This is the only thing that you posted that's true. Basically, you're a four-year-old in an adult suit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Me confused.

          I thought the rest of his post was reasonable. The only part I had issue with was half of what you quoted: "ordered to do things that are inconvenient"

          "selfish inconvenienced" aka "covidiots"

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Oh yes. God forbid you should ever be inconvenienced by such mundane things as protecting others.

        1. stiine Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          re: protecting others

          I don't care one bit about 'others'. In fact, I really only care for about 3.5 people.

      3. Doug_S

        Surely you support "mandatory" mask wearing in businesses when required by the business owner though, right? Making you wear a mask when you are out walking your dog may be a step too far, but there's no reason why businesses can't require it of their customers, or governments require it if you want to enter their buildings.

        It is protect others from YOU, since you can't know for sure if you are infected unless you are tested every day which is apparently reserved only for people who come near Trump (who likes to promote an image of unconcern with the virus, but he's obviously pretty worried about catching it and rightly so as an elderly and obese man)

        Your freedom to refuse to do things you deem "unnecessary" end where my rights (and more importantly the rights of my 82 year old mother) to not be infected by begin. Or would you be OK with me downing a fifth of whiskey and driving down the street where your children or grandchildren play?

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Well, I sympathise with Trumpo not wearing a mask in public --- not being such an ass as Boris, he doesn't crowd other people whilst on the podium. nor go around shaking hands whilst infected --- if he did, he would lose millions of voters, who would find a masked president unnerving. Seriously.

          And Un-American: an accusation not infrequently given on the streets to a friend of mine working in care --- in Texas.

          1. cbars Silver badge
            Holmes

            He'd lose voters because it's "Un-American" to not give a shit about anyone other than yourself...? Nope, this checks out, carry on

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Well, I sympathise with Trumpo not wearing a mask in public"

            Trump not wearing a mask extends only to public appearances and himself. His staff have to wear masks and he is tested on a daily basis (another one of his commitments for US citizens...not). And his reported treatment of his valet who tested positive was as expected.

            At least Boris followed through on his initial "herd immunity" approach by catching the virus... Stupid in hindsight, but consistent at least.

            1. Tom 7 Silver badge

              There is another corona virus that you can catch again a year later. It is possible that herd immunity is just a pipe dream until we get a vaccine.

          3. Doug_S

            The only reason his supporters are all against wearing a mask is because he is. If he had spoke about the recommendation for wearing a mask and said "I'll be doing it, I know some people don't like it but it will help us beat this virus and I want to get the country open again as soon as possible" then a week later someone would advertise red MAGA masks on Fox News and by now all his supporters would be wearing them.

          4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            " if he did, he would lose millions of voters, who would find a masked president unnerving. Seriously."

            I believe you, but once the small minority of Americans who think that way have died of stupidity in the Second Wave, I think you'll find that the rest are perfectly capable of telling the difference between communism and public health measures.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Probably not a popular opinion but have you considered the idea that locking down 100% of the population to keep maybe less than 5% safe is overkill? The fearmongering has worked brilliantly so even people under 25 are worried that they will catch it and die when stats say otherwise.

          Locally, 30 people in 1000 have tested positive and if you get it, you have an 80% chance of having something minor if you are reasonably fit.

          Protecting the elderly and those with known health issues by distancing, using masks, washing hands etc. Is relatively easy. Protecting everyone because of the media induced fear is largely pointless.

          To use your analogy isn't it a better idea, for the moment, to have your kids play in the garden rather than the street where there may be drunk drivers?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Probably not a popular opinion but have you considered the idea that locking down 100% of the population to keep maybe less than 5% safe is overkill?

            Yes and no.

            Yes, it's overkill because the lock-down is not a sustainable solution for long term. They should have just recommended everyone to wear a mask an be on their merry way (See Asia countries. Cities full lock-down not needed).

            No, it's no overkill because 5% of 331 million people is still 16 million people dead. Not to mention that 5% is an optimistic percent. The actual percent should be based on the number of recovery cases with the number of death, which currently is around 15% (up from 12%).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              I said it wouldn't be a popular opinion!

              But the point was not to just let the 5% die and be done with it - the point was we only really need to protect the 5% with stay at home / lockdown. (Note: the 5% was a guess it is likely to be significantly less!) As we are, 100% of the population are being affected for a small minority.

              Pour resources into care homes, ensure people in their 60's are regularly tested, isolate chronic diabetes sufferers and the clinically obese etc.

              By leaving the large majority to deal with what is more often than not, a bad cold, more resources can be pumped into looking after the really vulnerable. If we kept the media sensationalism and fear-mongering down, we could make the whole thing voluntary as people could make informed decisions about their risk. With the country running largely as normal we could help fund the additional expenditure rather than adding to the burden.

              It may not be a popular way of thinking but we are living in a time where to have a different opinion is almost up there with being a holocaust denier! Such is the power of the 24/7 media pumping number of deaths without any context. I stand by my different outlook

        3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            If a business wants me to wear a mask when on their premise, they can damn well provide it, for free.

            I hope you don't expect the McDonald's to provide you with the shirt and shoes they demand before you walk in? Maybe you need to stay home and let Mommy feed you. That's an American, can tell by the "all freeDUMBs" no responsibilities attitude.

        4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          @DougS

          "

          Surely you support "mandatory" mask wearing in businesses when required by the business owner though, right? "

          I most certainly do not! There are only a few places that a mask *might* be necessary for infection control purposes, and they are, for most people, healthcare premises.

          Your freedom to make me do things you deem "necessary" end where my rights (and more importantly the rights of my 84 year old mother) to free choice begin.

          1. Doug_S

            Re: @DougS

            Your freedom to make me do things you deem "necessary" end where my rights (and more importantly the rights of my 84 year old mother) to free choice begin.

            If they can require a shoes or shirt they can certainly require a mask. In your world I guess you think you should be able to show up at a business naked and they must serve you because free choice, right?

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              Re: @DougS

              In essence, clothing fits into my argument the same - if there is a provable reason to *insist* on clothing then it is fine (despite the fact I never wear trunks, and would never go into any type of business establishment, or even visit e.g. an ice-cream van, without a shirt, I won't go into a shop/cafe/whatever that has a sign insisting on a minimum level of dress). However, it doesn't need a huge change in social mores to get people to wear clothing whilst out of the house (at least in the UK), so your argument fails.

    5. Jason Hindle

      Not in China...,

      In China, if they can recognise your face, they’ll simply take a small fine out of your WeChar or Alipay account for not wearing a mask.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "I predicted this a few weeks ago that face masks may make current facial recognition tech a dead duck. "

      If you discard false positives, facial recognition appears to find remarkably few criminals compared to traditional techniques.

      And the "success" of facial recognition in China tends to either confirm what government officials want for surpressing portions of society or contribute to increased levels of fines for minor offences which enriches local police departments. Whether that improves society or is just legalised corruption is left for the reader to judge.

      Masks are unlikely to have any effect on any of these.....

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Alert

    And in other news...

    Facemask makers are gearing up to start making masks with BoJo's face on the front.

    All the more BoJo's to confuse the Plod!

    What can be wrong wtih that...?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And in other news...

      In a well run world looking like Johnson would be grounds for being stopped by the police. Unintended consequences and all that.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: And in other news...

      You might get served with child support writs every time you went to Tesco's, though...

  6. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Chinese technology ...

    ... won't work. All you Caucasians look alike.

    1. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: Chinese technology ...

      You joke, but it is a well established fact, no matter what race you come from.

      If you grow up in a very single race environment, it is much harder to tell differences between individuals of a different race.

      Exposure however reduces this

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Chinese technology ...

        Same for language. Even some parts of the UK, when I try to listen to someone, they may as well just be repeating the same word in some sort of morse code.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Chinese technology ...

          Same for language

          Not quite. Your ability with languages continues throughout childhood and to a slightly lesser degree into adulthood.

          However, as far as facial recognition of individuals is concerned, most of your ability to distinguish individuals through tiny facial differences is gained in the first 6 months of life. After that, much of your ability is 'hard wired', which is why the majority of us get the 'they all look the same' syndrome when meeting people of very different ethnic facial characteristics in later childhood and adulthood.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Chinese technology ...

            Really? I didnt meet anyone other than white anglo saxon until I was 11 an have no difficulty in recognising my bame friends. I dont think I know anyone else who has problems apart from people who are out and out racists.

          2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Chinese technology ...

            I must be a mutant then. I have no trouble distinguishing between peopoe of other races who I know well, and great difficulty remembering faces (even pasty white ones like mine) of people I don't know well.

            Your post sounds like one of those "Amazing Scientific Facts" that is so surprising when it is said out loud that everyone goes "Gosh, isn't science amazing!" rather than "Er, are you sure?". Soundbites trump skepticism every time, sadly.

            1. IGotOut Silver badge

              Re: Chinese technology ...

              " I have no trouble distinguishing between peopoe of other races who I know well"

              Palm, here is my face.

              As I pointed out, familiarity reduces the issue.

              And it's fuck all to do with "Trumpism"

              Go on use a "search engine" and go discover this thing called "science" for yourself.

              Part of learning, is discovering things for yourself.

              1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
                Facepalm

                Re: Chinese technology ...

                And now try reading the second half of the sentence you quoted. It's quite important.

  7. martinusher Silver badge

    So the technology is imperfect?

    Facial recognition technology isn't perfect because faces aren't a good way of identifying people. In the US it has long been the practice to have identification pictures of people include an ear lobe -- faces can fool but apparently ears are unique. Since its already been shown that its possible to track people using characteristics like their gait its only a matter of time before a person can be recognized from their entire appearance, with or without a mask.

    The prize - ANPR for humans - is just too tempting to ignore so don't figure on it being given up on any time soon (they'd chip us like pets if they thoiught they could get away with it). Expect every countermeasure to be met with new techniques which willl require new countermeasures.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So the technology is imperfect?

      Probability, number of data points, and accuracy of readings/drift of the original.

      See DNA testing and even profiling for an example.

      To put it simply, the possibility of two people choosing the same lottery ticket can be a very very sure thing. The probability of two lotteries giving the same result is much less. The probability of seven lotteries in a row being the same is almost zero.

      So it depends on how the data is distributed, and the reliability of it, as to how well it works, and if it even works at all!

    2. Glen 1 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: So the technology is imperfect?

      We already willingly carry around said chips with no problems. Even keep the battery charged, too.

      With 5G cell cites being smaller, the granularity of said tracking data will improve (or get worse, depending on your point of view).

      The thing that makes it easy though, is the people who *don't* willingly carry these devices. Or carry devices not registered to them, or that have only ever been used once. In terms of "person of interest", they light up on the gestapo's screens like a christmas tree.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: So the technology is imperfect?

        Ironic how 5G will make electonic tracking easier, whilst at the same time causing coronavirus, thus ending up making facial tracking harder.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So the technology is imperfect?

        "With 5G cell cites being smaller, the granularity of said tracking data will improve (or get worse, depending on your point of view)."

        Any sources for this? Existing 3G can track you to within a metre via triangulation so aside from "not spots" that people complained about, 5 G doesn't significatly alter the ability to track you.

        The additional sites are to increase bandwidth, although this is only considered for high density areas - in rural/urban areas the preference (in the UK) would by taller towers to improve coverage without increasing the number of towers.

        1. Glen 1 Silver badge

          Re: So the technology is imperfect?

          "Any sources for this?"

          Sadly not. It was just something I inferred.

          In cases that have made it into the news about cell tower location info, they only mention the nearest cell tower a device has pinged off of. No mention of triangulation. Thus my inference that more sites mean smaller cells.

          While bandwidth might be an issue, additional sites are also there because the higher frequencies used by many 5G provides don't propagate/penetrate as well.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So the technology is imperfect?

      Yes, they'd chip is if they thought they could get away with it...

      The are pushing facial recognition because they can get away with it.

      Who decided the line? And what's stopping them moving the line further?

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: So the technology is imperfect?

      At uni I broke my glasses (I'm very short sighted) and couldn't be bothered to get new ones. I could recognise most of my friends from a distance by the way their blur moved. I'd forgotten all about this until you mentioned it when a vision of a certain seriously attractive lady appearing over a hill popped into my brain! She had a particularly recognisable gait having legs all the way to her armpits. And arse length blond hair too but I could recognise her walking towards me from 1/2 mile away while I couldn't see a lamppost twenty feet away.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: So the technology is imperfect?

        Unsurprisingly, evolution hasn't pre-programmed your brain to preferentially identify lampposts.

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "Thank you, coronavirus"

    "Look; you're wearing face masks, you all look the same, the facial recognition doesn't work, so there's no privacy problem at all if we roll it out at scale, right?"

    Shit. I've just realised the voice in my head doing inner monologues sounds like Priti Patel.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: "Thank you, coronavirus"

      >Shit. I've just realised the voice in my head doing inner monologues sounds like Priti Patel.

      Sounds really scary. Like 300,000;34;974,000% scary!

  9. Steven Guenther

    Need Polarized face shield

    The mask help stop your fluids from going into others. You need a face shield to stop others from getting into your eyes.

    A polarized face shield would cut down on the angles the cameras would be able to see you at.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Need Polarized face shield

      Still too risky for me.

      During lockdown, I've dug tunnels to the supermarket (I only go out of hours, much cheaper and less chance of human contact) and other important locations. Yes...there's a secret escape route before you ask.

      I'm currently working on my robotic doppelganger to allow me to appear to venture outside post-lockdown while remaining safely inside posting on ElReg.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Need Polarized face shield

      Sunglasses and a face mask will flummox pretty much any face recognition. In fact, it will flummox pretty much even face *detection* because there just isn't enough face left on view for the neural nets to notice.

  10. Celeste Reinard

    Unidentified Faceless Objects

    After so many years of political hassel, we finally got a law, proposed by the populist party here in holland, forbidding facial covering, mostly aimed at the 12 to 24 muslim women here wearing a veil. And now we don't hear so much as a peep. ... I wonder who invented this virus, because (s)he is a bloody genius, just to annoy these politicians - but I gather it must be a marxist(e), sick an tired of waiting for the revolution to arrive - and now here we have it (finally)! ... As I am also a genius, I propose to just chip everybody - at birth, for starters (practical for doctors as well, mind you), and since already half the population has been chipped by aliens, actually all we have to do is to learn to decipher the code those chips are emitting across the galaxy, and Bob's your Uncle (as you always suspected). And the ups are limitless: when you need a cop, for example, you can just find one on Googlemaps, and wistle in the correct direction. Or an Illuminaty, or any other crook, if you need to outsource a burglary to retrieve you smartphone. ... Far much better than installing cctv on every corner and bedroom. Cheaper as well, since most of the work has been done (voluntarily!) by those nice and loving aliens. ... Unless a majority of 50.1 % of 17.4 % of the population says no to it, then of course we don't, and continue throwing good money after bad money, and keep the cops busy harrasing people at random - what is also a fun thing to do, instead of doing their job, saving kittens and beating up woman-beaters.

  11. doublelayer Silver badge

    A solution occurs to me

    Hey you conspiracy theory people--sorry, I mean truth-knowers, you've made a mistake. 5G isn't causing the COVID outbreak. No, really. Look at the deployment maps. The masts you're burning are almost all 4G ones, and we've had 4G for quite a while, so that can't be doing it. You know what's new, having been set up right before this started happening and in London, where the U.K. has the most cases? That's right, a bunch of facial recognition cameras. Well, that's what they say they are. All you need is a few devices out there spreading contagion for it to spread from there. These are evil disease-causing equipment. Just look at the facts. You were burning the wrong things. Hint hint.

    Note: Obviously, this is untrue. The facts don't support that at all. It'd be ridiculous to think of this. Even these people are intelligent enough to realize this fallacious argument. [Truth-knowers, don't trust the person who put this footnote in my comment.]

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: A solution occurs to me

      Username checks out.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: A solution occurs to me

        Yes, for the record if anyone is unsure, my preceding comment was intended as humor. But if some piece of equipment has to be destroyed by idiots, I have a preference as to which type they go after.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A solution occurs to me

      "[Truth-knowers, don't trust the person who put this footnote in my comment.]"

      Don't worry about it. You wrote enough to get their blood boiling and steam straight past their attention span so they'll not see your disclaimer. Remember, these are the same people who read the Daily Mail Headlines and maybe the first paragraph where all the misleading click-bait is and never reach the end of the article where the real facts have been buried so as to keep the lawyers at bay.

    3. Shooter
      Boffin

      Re: A solution occurs to me

      Close, but no cigar.

      I think it's probably all the ANPR cameras that are deployed everywhere. The better to spread the virus more widely!

  12. Jonathon Green

    Think I’m going to be sticking with the not going anywhere near London option...

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Okay. We won't miss you! :p

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And we certainly don’t miss the disease and stabby ridden cesspit that you love so much. Stockholm syndrome is a powerful affliction.

    2. Jonathan Richards 1
      Megaphone

      Coronavirus kills cities

      Well, novel infectious diseases in general might. I shall probably be going near London in the future, for family reasons, but what is becoming increasingly unclear to me is why London goes anywhere near London. Too many people paying way too much to live, travel, and work unhealthily too close to each other! Run away!!

      Obvs, this isn't going to happen in a year, or a parliamentary term, but I wouldn't be surprised if big cities cease to grow, or even start to decline in population, over the next generation or two. The grand-sweep-of-human-history reason for cities is almost itself history.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Coronavirus kills cities

        "Obvs, this isn't going to happen in a year, or a parliamentary term, but I wouldn't be surprised if big cities cease to grow, or even start to decline in population, over the next generation or two. The grand-sweep-of-human-history reason for cities is almost itself history."

        While I won't dispute city living has its disadvantages, the reality is that globally, a significant amount of what has been considered improvements in quality of life (health/education/social services etc) are delivered more easily in high density population centres.

        If you think this will change because of a few 100,000 people dying globally, I would suggest revisiting the history books for the outcomes of pandemics over the last 50 years where more people perished. They have lead to improvements in healthcare, food and environmental standards but no decline in the move to cities.

        If you are sufficiently well off that you can choose between city living and alternative, enjoy that but remember most city dwellers don't have your options and many have moved to cities because it was a better alternative.

        1. terrythetech

          Re: Coronavirus kills cities

          Having moved out of London I now find that I couldn't afford to move back there even if I wanted to.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Coronavirus kills cities

            Can't afford to move back to London or can't afford to with a similar lifestyle?

            Sharing accomadtion, making your own meals, making the most of travel cards and taking a second job and you can make London affordable until you get a decent job (assuming you have skills or can blag something). I accept not everyone is prepared to do this but London (and other large cities grow because a lot of people do do this.

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      I've been doing that for years. I worked there for a couple and even as a smoker the air there scared me. The things I used to cough up or remove from my nostrils! Last time I went was to the GBBF after living in the country for a while and the beer all tasted of diesel!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worst Case Scenario

    Wow they are mighty weak: " ill-advised" ,"chilling effect on civil liberties", "accountability" The MET will scream "muslim terrorist spotted on camera" and they'll get their way immediately.

    Instead consider the worst case scenario and then estimate how likely it is:

    Putin puts a puppet leader into the UK, Senior policemen are taken into a meeting at the top of a high tower. Three of them fall out of the window to their deaths 'in mysterious circumstances'. Suddenly all this face tech is used to ensure Putin puppet stays in power. Track his critics, arrest dissenters and suppress opposition. Police are remarkably compliant, as are judges, all except Judge Jefferies, who was shot repeatedly in the back, police are calling it a suicide.

    Now look at USA, what's stopping the full take over is the separation of powers, all those checks and balances are a damn nuisance. Trump so far has only been able to deliver the things wholly in the executive branch. If it requires legislation to hand it to Russia, he's screwed. If it requires the States to comply, he's screwed.

    As to how likely it is, well Ukraine, Hungary, are examples not far away. USA is in denial about it right now. Each time he hands something to Russia, they try not to see it.

    So the police are out of control here, the mechanisms to protect the people from a rogue force are not in place, and people are too compliant (i.e. afraid) to call the police action rogue and outside their remit. You don't let the police decide that you will become a surveillance state, and nobody dare say anything.

    1. billat29

      Re: Worst Case Scenario

      It used to be thought very likely that the UK was at risk of a communist takeover. Our glorious leaders at that time were very keen to make sure that government didn't have the powers that could be used against them in that event.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Worst Case Scenario

      Putin must be having a great laugh at all this: The West is attacking themselves and blaming it all on Putin, who doesn't need to actually do anything.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Worst Case Scenario

        Russia (and now China) is being used as a scapegoat for the failures of governments in the same way that the Jews were in the 1930s.

        See the difference in the results and work out the common factor and it becomes rather obvious why Israel feels the need for nuclear weapons.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Putin votes Republican

        Republicans will ensure he gets his sanctions lifted. They already got his arms limiting treaties cancelled, his Ukraine invasion legitimized, his PACs legitimized, prosecution of his spies lifted, his spy base re-opened.

        Republicans are trying in the courts to cancel Obama care again, in the middle of a pandemic. That was an estimated 60 THOUSAND deaths PER YEAR when they tried to do in the Senate, that would have been nearly QUARTER OF A MILLION AMERICANS KILLED BY REPUBLICANS in Trump first term.

        So you can imagine how Putin is jizzing in his pants at receiving US ventilators from Trump in the middle of a pandemic, even as Trump is still trying in the courts to remove Obamacare and kill his quarter of a million Americans.

        Putin will be smiling sweetly as he remembers how Trump spoke to Erdogan and Putin and agreed to remove troops from Syria BEFORE informing the Pentagon of their decision, causing the US army to flee while under Russian and Turkish fire. Leaving Syria and the US bases and weapons behind for the Russians.

        Putin is also laughing coquettish as he remembers that Erik Prince, even offers him, mercenaries for his Wagner mercenary group. The Wagner group being the mercenaries that attacked the US base in Syria.

        Putin will also be smirking at your crude defense of him.

    4. Anonymous Coward
  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't matter anyway:

    "Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police Service stressed that '... protest, marches or assemblies are still not permitted'.

    Officers 'will engage and encourage people to comply' with public health regulations, the force added."

    Source: Coronavirus: Public urged to avoid England's beauty spots.

  15. jospanner Bronze badge

    Government and other forms of authority will always tend to expand. Almost every reduction in government and authority has come at the expense of people's health or lives. This isn't the sort of problem that you fix by voting Lib Dem.

    Libertarian socialism - the idea that authority is fundamentally a problem to be overcome - is the way forward.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Please explain the difference between "libertarian socialism" and "communism". (Actual Karl Marx communism, not an American shorthand for "autocratic government that disagrees with our autocratic government.")

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems the Lone Ranger and Hamburglar...

    Were ahead of their time.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Danny 2 Silver badge

    I am much better looking in a facemask

    Had to pull two teeth since my dentist disappeared. Feeling like a third tooth soon.

    I've been crying too much because news. Last night I tried to pay for my shopping with my library card - that time I laughed.

  19. TimMaher Bronze badge
    Coat

    Is it too late....

    ... for me to extol the values of pixelated face masks?

    I find I tend to do this every few months when commenting on El Reg.

    Mine is the one with a face mask, some gloves and a pair of sunglasses in the pockets.

    1. TimMaher Bronze badge
      Big Brother

      More seriously .

      I see that Sony have unveiled their IMX500 and 501 image processors with built in AI.

      Yet more kit for the roz. to get their mitts on to undermine what preciously few bits of privacy that we still possess.

  20. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Why the obsession with masks? The WHO recommends that we don't wear them unless we are coughing, sneezing or looking after a sick person. The Yanks have gone wild for them, but they always look for simple solutions to pan their hopes to, and most of them probably think COVID-19 will be defeated by a superhero.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Honestly interested - where is this much confusion? Seems to me things have been fairly clearly explained from the start. Proper PPE rigorously applies protects you from catching stuff. casual PPE stops you giving it to others. And loads of studies plus empirical observation of the progress of the virus in countries where mask wearing is common or enforced suggests that they are very effective at reducing the magic R number. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that 'the jury is out' or the 'science isn't proved'. The only reason we aren't been told to wear them in all public spaces is the governments a) fear that panic buying PPE off Amazon will stop care homes panic buying PPE off Amazon b) looking like bigger prats than they already are for not imposing a sensible and simple R reducer earlier.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Maybe the person being cared for has some other illness and preventing complications from things like Covid-19 are part of the regimen. (Ya dumb, self-centered, tunnel visioned, Microsoft/Apple/Linux-lovin' moron.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why the obsession with masks? The WHO recommends that we don't wear them unless we are coughing, sneezing or looking after a sick person. The Yanks...

      Here's a simple logic. The whole world is sick with covid-19 and a lot of people are left with looking after it or leave the world. The Yanks and some countries chose to look after it.

  21. T. F. M. Reader

    A small, informal suggestion

    Should El Reg change the Anonymous Coward icon?

  22. steviebuk Silver badge

    I wonder...

    ...if you can do what some attempt to do with ANPR cameras. Hoping the database doesn't validate data, they stick the dump the database command on their numberplate just before entering. Hoping, that the camera reads it with no check and the database does just that :)

    Don't know if its ever worked.

  23. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921 Bronze badge

    Masks with number plates?

  24. tiggity Silver badge

    I'm going to wear a face covering

    .. a niqab

    Embroidered on it will be the phrase, "Oi Boris, you racist, looks like the letterbox look is now a good thing"

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