back to article IBM to build biometrics system for UK cops and immigration services

The UK's Home Office has handed IBM a £54.7 million ($70 million) contract to work on the biometric matcher platform to support its police and immigration services in identifying suspects against a database of fingerprint and photo data. Big Blue's deal is to provide the Matcher Service Platform (MSP), which includes a " …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Big Brother


    "some police forces do see this national system as a viable alternative to procuring their own retrospective facial recognition systems"

    Well of course they do. The fact that facial recog has been demonstrated as not efficient enough for actual security does not bother them. What they want is a system that can tell them when to hurl themselves onto someone, cuff him and drag him away for questioning. The fact that there is a non-negligeable chance that said questioning could reveal that the system was wrong and they are guilty of abusing their powers is not a problem - it's all a days' work.

    Oh, and it's also interesting to note that none of them are for a minute thinking that not having a facial recog system is an option. No. They're all going to have one, so yes, it figures that a national system is much better.

    The Police State is something we are all just easing into without a second thought.

    How wonderful ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Undoubtedly

      I'm sure there are overlaps, and these will increase as time goes by, but the systems that this looks like it is intended to replace are about proving identity, not about surveillance. You know, things like the biometrics in passports that almost all countries now need to have to allow visa-less travel to places like the US.

      One thing that I have heard that previous systems are used for is to try and provide a provable identity for asylum seekers who may not have one already, so that if they get refused access on whatever grounds, they can't just assume a different name, and try again. It is unpleasant that these things are necessary, but a world where travel is so easy is increasingly like that.

      A balance between security and privacy is needed, and where that lies is one of the big debates of our time.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Undoubtedly

        >provide a provable identity for asylum seekers who may not have one already

        You would have thought if they had already applied you might have something reliable, like fingerprints or iris scans

        Not a system where a CCTV camera on a beach can decide to launch the missiles because somebody $ETHNIC on a raft looks like somebody $ETHNIC in the record

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Undoubtedly

        The problem is that facial recognition is unreliable even when you have someone staring directly into a camera in the same place, let alone in other uses like the ones police tend to propose. There are some biometrics that are at least a bit better at being able to correctly tell people apart when they have good input data, but for some reason facial pictures are still being used as the primary method.

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: without a second thought

      "The Police State is something we are all just easing into without a second thought.

      How wonderful ?"

      There ISN'T an 'easing' into it at ALL, people are consciously voting towards authoritarian leanings all over the world. There is no "second thought" because these people don't question their decisions; their decision to lean authoritarian is correct and 'just' in their minds, no question about it. They vote with confidence.

      Want different? Get the world's population to think differently.

      Sadly, I'm beyond the point of caring about the destruction of the world when people actively fight for that destruction. I'm old, the world is doomed, and it'll happen after I'm gone...

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Where are the similarities other than it's a government contracting a company to do some work for them? This is something that the Home Office want to do. If it were not IBM, it would be someone else. It's not like IBM have a monopoly on the technology. Your comment is just clickbait (damn, I guess it worked).

      If there is "Prior Art", it is that IBM used to run IABS, which is much more relevant.

      1. cookieMonster Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: WTF?

        IBM has previous form in population control /catalogue systems, from back in the 1930’s

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: WTF?

          At least this time IBM's system won't actually work - cos IBM

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: WTF?

          I'm aware. But if you use that argument about what companies did in the past, then Ford, General Motors, GE and many, many of today's companies and also US banks would also be in the frame to some degree or other.

          The entire National Socialist government was built on credit, much of it from US banks. Who is more complicit?

          Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft was a German company that was a subsidiary of IBM that provided the German government of the time with hollerith card machines for 'censuses' (as IBM did for other countries). And it was effectively nationalized by the Nazis before most of the atrocities were committed. Yes, you can point to other IBM subsidiaries that provided cards for those machines, but many other companies sold resources to Germany in the 1930's.

          I'm not saying that there was no link between IBM of the day and the National Socialist government, but your inference is that IBM is interested in controlling people, but that is not the case. It's just interested in lucrative government contracts, which earn it money. Such is the American way.

          I wonder whether any of the oil producers of the time think of themselves as complicit in the Holocaust? If you want to apply ethics retrospectively, apply them consistently as well.

  3. xyz Silver badge

    What could possibly go wrong?

    When I read Home Office, IBM, Fujitsu, police and service bus in the same article I wish they'd just give the cash to a charity and go straight to the enquiry where "lessons will be learned".

  4. that one in the corner Silver badge

    A service interface used by external subsystems

    Will that interface be a commonly understood API, say a connection to an SQL database that will allow flexibility to the consumers, allowing them to quickly respond to new circumstances?

    Or will it be a strict set of queries, one per paragraph of the requirements spec, each with its own unique style of signature (this one uses JSON, this one XML, this one is in binary and only half the fields are in network byte order. This one - no idea, but that is not a problem because you have a full set of examples in portable COBOL. Here is our phone number in case you want to buy some support time, some more examples in another language or, for the really brave, a new query added to the set.

  5. Whoopsie

    Given IBM's past history doing something similar for the Nazis in WW2 ( I'm not surprised they won the bid. Cruella Braverman must have been falling over herself to rubber stamp this.

  6. HereAndGone

    Fortunately it's Big Blue

    "Big Blue's deal is to provide ..."

    Based upon a long history, especially in the U.K., odds are that after several emergency WalletEctomies, the patient will probably expire.

  7. Sparkus

    So no 'lessons learned' studies....

    ....regarding the abandonment of a national biometrics database in Afghanistan and how the Taliban are using the data and field identification terminal equipment............

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