back to article UK policing minister urges doubling down on face-scanning tech

A UK minister for policing has called for forces to double their use of algorithmic-assisted facial recognition in a bid to snare more criminals. Chris Philp MP, Minister of State for Crime, Policing and Fire, said both the use of live and retrospective facial recognition should increase following a commitment to spend £17.5 …

  1. Josco

    LFR - RFR - FFS

    Another step on our sleep walk to a police state.

    1. Jedit Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: LFR - RFR - FFS

      Oh, it's not a sleepwalk. They know exactly where they're taking us.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A step towards a police state?

    Or just cleaning up loose ends?

    No right to silence. No right to privacy. When they finish "Reforming" the human rights act, there will be no rights.

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: A step towards a police state?

      Two points have been taken off your social credit score.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Devil

    "a bias against the Black males and females combined"

    Full speed ahead from the government, then.

    Haven't checked Labour's position on this, but I would be thoroughly unsurprised if there were no policy difference.

    1. BebopWeBop
      Facepalm

      Re: "a bias against the Black males and females combined"

      The last couple of Labour Home Secretaries I remember, Blunkett and Straw were lock step with most Tories on this

      1. Snapper

        Re: "a bias against the Black males and females combined"

        The actual last Labour Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, certainly was. I remember her nick-name was 'Jackboots' IIRC.

  4. Adair

    But it was all right,

    everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

    1. cyberdemon Silver badge
      Terminator

      "Some people just don't understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance"

      My Deus Ex quotes are becoming more relevant every day, it seems :(

      Funny how both a book written 75 years ago and a PC game written 25 years ago based on a mashup of Usenet conspiracy theories from the 90s should be so prescient. Either some of the conspiracy theories were real, or our lords and masters have read the book, perhaps even played the game, and decided that it is a great way to run a governmentstay in power.

      "God was a dream of good government." "You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands."

      I wonder how that AI summit will go..

  5. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    Hokey cokey

    A UK minister for policing has called for forces to double their use of algorithmic-assisted facial recognition in a bid to snare more criminals.

    This seems like encouraging forces to engage in "busy" work without achieving tangible results. The police are well aware of who the criminals are, yet there seems to be little interest in arresting them. Firstly, because it's risky, and secondly, there's a high chance they'll merely receive a slap on the wrist and be back committing crimes the following day.

    Like many UK institutions today, they appear to be mere facades. Underfunded, apathetic, and resigned.

    Moreover, it's intriguing that the force isn't examining the root causes.

  6. Eclectic Man Silver badge
    Boffin

    How to use statistics

    This morning it was announced that the UK Government has decided to cancel the closure of ticket offices in Britain's railway stations. A person stated that it was a bit of ahem as 'only 11% of people use ticket offices'. They received millions of objections to the proposed closures because some people actually need a human being to help them get the correct tickets, discount cards and travel arrangements

    In the article, the Metropolitan Police admitted to a 91% error rate in facial recognition technology, but insisted that they do not consider the to be 'false positives' as 'other checks' are made before action is taken. I do wonder act the 'other checks' are, and how much effort they require. 91% of computer time being wasted is bad enough

    Now to this humble Ph.D. mathematician it looks like a 9% success rate with facial recognition, with some admitted poor work with 'ethnic minorities' (for which read "people with dark, or non-white, skin", they do not mean Liverpudlian or Geordie) and women.

    So my idea is this - let's install Live Facial Recognition in the Houses of Parliament, and see how the MPs and lords take to it. If it is good enough for us plebs, it should be good enough for them.

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: How to use statistics

      Experiments using images from the Senate and the House of Representatives were very amusingly reported on in this very organ I believe.

    2. simon_c

      Re: How to use statistics

      I'm fine with the police having these: If and only if everyone involved in decisions about them, from the minister for policing down to the copper operating the system can answer this simple question. (no conferring allowed!).

      Your intelligence says you have 4 Just Stop Oil protestors trying to sneak into Wimbledon, and your shiny new scanner with a 99% accuracy rate (both negative and positive) has identified a face in the crown ? What are the chances this person is one of your protestors ?

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: How to use statistics

        its very very simple .

        when your shiny new scanner with a 99% accuracy rate (both negative and positive) has identified a face in the crowd , and it alerting you to this it would display a picture of the person it has seen and the person it thinks it is from the records - the human meatbag can then decide whether to proceed or not.

      2. claimed Bronze badge

        Re: How to use statistics

        Zero: no “just stop oil” protesters are also royalists, so won’t be wearing a crown. QED

      3. ragnar

        Re: How to use statistics

        Don't we need to know the number of people attending Wimbledon to answer this?

    3. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: How to use statistics

      I do wonder act the 'other checks' are, and how much effort they require.

      Seems pretty simple to me - the computer would flash up 2 pics on a human's desk and say "is this guy this guy?" , very fast , human verification , no man hours wasted.

      Only then do you send out the ED209 robot.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How to use statistics

        "Press any key to confirm match"

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: How to use statistics

          Sorry, where is the "Any" key, again?

          1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

            Re: Sorry, where is the "Any" key, again?

            Never mind that, I keep ordering a Tab, but it's not arrived yet and I'm really, really thirsty now. Perhaps there's some jam in the series of internet tubes, blocking its arrival. Probably for the best... I've nowhere to put it as my PC seems to be missing the drinks holder they all used to come with.

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Sorry, where is the "Any" key, again?

              It is ok for you, I'm still waiting for the cookies all these web sites promise to send me for my tea. (Hoping for 'Chocolate chip'.)

    4. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: How to use statistics

      《install Live Facial Recognition in the Houses of Parliament》

      100% accuracy there - all miscreants and malefactors.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: How to use statistics

        Oh come on, not all of the cleaners are illegal immigrants.

  7. Andy The Hat Silver badge
    Big Brother

    I'm a bit on the fence.

    Rudimentary facial recording in public places by law enforcement agencies is a Police State activity and should be outlawed. Similarly, comparison of routine footage against, for instance, a national identity card database *for any reason* would be right out and in the same way a national DNA database should not be interrogatable in a routine way.

    On the other hand, if a crime has been committed, footage (or DNA) was available, the validity of the claim checked and a warrant issued by a Judge then that could be a legitimate use of search powers. The level at which such a warrant could be issued would be up to the lawmakers - dna taken from a dropped crisp packet to substantiate the crime of "dropping litter" may not justify a warrant however blood in a murder may do so. On the other hand is that opening the door to acceptance ...?

    1. Adair

      Re: I'm a bit on the fence.

      Just remember RIPA for an example of the 'trustworthyness' of politicians' promises.

      They will say whatever they need to say (they may even believe it); and then they will do whatever they want to do.

      Despite the best efforts of the justice system and some excellent NGO activists, this country still has an underlying feudal understanding of the relationship between the 'government' and the 'people'—given half a chance the government act as owners rather than servants.

      It all goes back to the entrenched concentration of money, power, and entitlement.

      1. Snapper

        Re: I'm a bit on the fence.

        It all goes back to William the Conqueror.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm a bit on the fence.

      I'm also on the fence on this one.

      On the one hand, I think it's useful if they can pick out a thug who is trying to sneak into a Millwall game after he's already been banned for violence in the past.

      On the other hand, if I happen to look a bit like that person (from the perspective of some AI algorithm?) then am I going to get stopped and questioned every time I try to go to an Ipswich match*

      (* purely hypothetical, I've only ever been to one proper football match - Arsenal vs. Man U at Old Trafford when they had standing tickets - which was very enjoyable, but once was enough. If I remember correctly it was a ludicrous display, and Arsenal just walked it in... or something. )

  8. BebopWeBop
    Devil

    We can expect

    DVLA and Passport Office images to be added to the core data set. Learning from the best - China.

  9. Arthur the cat Silver badge
    Facepalm

    'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

    Shame about all the false positives and innocent peoples' lives being turned upside down by dodgy technology, but it makes our Laura Norder stats look better, so that's what counts.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

      How would that happen exactly ?

      You're walking down the high street , and the Face Machine accidentally incorrectly mistakes you for a rapist currently on the run .....

      Where does it go from there?

      Drone strike?

      or does the cctv operator just look at the picture and say , no HAL , this time you're mistaken .

      or do they send a bobby to stop you and compare your face with the rapist on his ipad , then you go on your way?

      1. claimed Bronze badge

        Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

        Arrest first, then maybe you’ll get to be released after a senior officer has reviewed the “evidence” - but not before they question you.

        No smoke without fire, you know

        1. Adair

          Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

          Yep, you're walking down the street, then for no other reason than technological and patronising bureaucratic incompetence your day/month/year/life gets fucked over by the system.

          Tough luck, and better luck next time.

        2. blackcat Silver badge

          Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

          There are some horror stories from the US about police arresting people based on very vague descriptions such as shirt, hair or skin colour. They have rammed cars off the road because all they were working on was something like 'its a white sedan'. Police raiding the wrong address as no-one double checked it with the paperwork. The UK isn't far behind.

          We are in the realms of Tuttle and Buttle.

        3. Christoph

          Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

          "because additional checks and balances are in place to confirm identification following system alerts."

          Which is very reassuring to the person they reluctantly release after hours of interrogation.

          And to the person who gets stopped on a daily basis because they resemble someone the police are looking for (e.g. they are both black).

          1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

            Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

            And to the person who gets stopped on a daily basis because they resemble someone the police are looking for (e.g. they are both black).

            This is the biggest issue by far. The whole premise of "Retrospective facial recognition" is not to work out who did the crime, but to find someone who looks a bit like the person who did the crime - if they were wearing a different hat - and it was sunny instead of raining like it was in the video - anyway, they're both black, that will do. And then hassle a random completely innocent person.

            And then hassle the same person a week later when some other constable finds they look a bit like the CCTV picture of some other crime!

            A system which deliberately creates a set of perfectly innocent people who get hassled every so often just because the computer says they look like some people who do crimes is completely intolerable.

            Facial recognition which surveys the people walking down the street where the smash-and-grab-raid took place last week to look just for the one person who can been seen throwing the brick in the CCTV is one thing. Searching the national driving licence database for people who look a bit like that guy is clearly intolerable.

            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

              people who get hassled every so often just because the computer says they look like some people who do crimes is completely intolerable.

              if you " like some people who do crimes" then you " like some people who do crimes" wether or not the computer is involved.

              if you like some people who do crimes then you have to be eliminated for the enquiry

              This happens with or without computer involvement

              A magic system that does the hard bit and locates the suspect is surely a good thing - then real people decide where to go

              Crippling the tools so the police cant get even that far in the investigation is surely not the way to proceed ,

              why not bin off the police altogether ? that'll stop any false arrests

              jeeez , bunch of luddites on this site , who knew!

              We should be using technology not scared of it - how comes every copper doesent have a fingerprint scanner on their belt ? that would be step 2 after a face comp has made an id .

              This would obviously just be another tool in the armory - not a machine to be obeyed no matter what it says .

              If a copper beats the shit out of an innocent black guy because the computer told him to then obviously this is not a fault with the computer system , the problem is elsewhere .

              yeah yeah i know, you needs your civil liberties

              ok , hit me with the downvotes

          2. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

            Sadly lots of the general public will be very happy about racist policing

            .. at least if this news item is anything to go by

            https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bianca-williams-shocked-fundraiser-met-31315542

            .. Though just about every news story these days seems to make me feel more misanthropic and to be more and more inclined to believe a dinosaur style asteroid event could have some plus points.

        4. Eclectic Man Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

          Arrest first, then maybe you’ll get to be released after a senior officer has reviewed the “evidence” - but not before they question you.

          (el Reg legal experts please correct me if I am wrong)

          You will not be released until after your fingerprints have been recorded and, for serious crimes, a DNA swab taken. Under current UK legislation I believe the British Police will keep this data, associated with your name and address for three years even if you have no connection with crime and have no criminal record. If you are detained by the Police anywhere in the UK during that three years, the mere fact that your details are on the Police database means that you will be treated with suspicion. One black witness to a serious crime had details on the database, even though he was known to be innocent, when he was witness to another crime, he was treated as a serious suspect.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

            "You will not be released until after your fingerprints have been recorded and, for serious crimes, a DNA swab taken. Under current UK legislation I believe the British Police will keep this data, associated with your name and address for three years even if you have no connection with crime and have no criminal record. If you are detained by the Police anywhere in the UK during that three years"

            Nope. The law on this is very different in Scotland. Short version: DNA samples are held indefinitely for those who get convicted and destroyed for those who aren't.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

              short version: they were caught keeping em forever and had no way to delete em.

              and if you think they have fixed it, i have a bridge to sell

          2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

            One black witness to a serious crime had details on the database, even though he was known to be innocent, when he was witness to another crime, he was treated as a serious suspect.

            Well, thats not the fault of the technology is it ?

            Better training and procedures are required.

            Removing the tools is never the solution.

            If that innocent witness's prints & DNA were recorded that should have helped rule him out

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome ...

    To China.

    1. Bebu Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Welcome ...

      《To China.》

      But the PRC in all its repression is arguably better run than the than the UK (although where isn't.)

      Must be a market for bionic stick-on faces than can dynamically mimic different skin tones (a la chamelion), hair colour and underlying skeletal structures such jaw lines, cheek bones and brow ridge?

      If everyone dialed up the Boris J. face before going about their nefarious purposes it would be a bit like the Thomas Crown Affair (1999.) [I preferred the '68 version ;)]

  11. Charlie van Becelaere
    Black Helicopters

    'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

    Indeed. There is a question, however, as to whether it will solve the crimes correctly.

    Perhaps no one in power really cares about that question.

    1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

      Re: 'No question' it will solve more crimes, Tory MP claims

      In the late Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, the Patrician of Ankh-Morport was of the opinion that if a person was actually guilty of the crime for which they had been convicted, so much the better.

  12. Falmari Silver badge

    Arsenal v Tottenham

    Seriously 3 arrests at Arsenal v Tottenham are the best examples of the successes achieved by the met's use of facial recognition technology he can find. Hardly a resounding endorsement of the effectiveness the technology. All three arrests could just as likely have happened without FR technology specifically LFR.

    LFR does not find someone in a crowd, at football grounds it is deployed at the turnstiles, individuals are scanned as they show their tickets. All three arrest were the result of the individuals being identified at the turnstiles. Now two of the arrests were for breaching football ground exclusion orders which courts have been issuing and people being arrested for breaching long before FR technology. Before FR clubs were supplied with photos of the home and away supporters with exclusion orders which were displayed in the ticket booths.

    As for the recall to prison would police be unable to them if they had not gone to a football match?

    Three minor arrests is hardly an impressive achievement.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Favourite For Face Scanning

    Link: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/2018/11/who-was-guy-fawkes-man-behind-mask

  14. MrGreen

    Decoded

    Decoded: A UK Minister has told all his mates to invest in a certain company and that company will now be awarded a massive contract using your tax money.

    The transfer of wealth continues.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Post office scandal

    New version

    We are arresting you for a crime yet undiagnosed

    I am innocent

    No you can’t be we have your picture on the police computer, ergo you must be guilty

    But you just took that picture

    Yeah to see if you are on the police computer and you are

    Yes because you just uploaded it

    But … the computer matched you face with you and your on the police computer you wouldn’t be on there if you had not done something wrong anyway here is your cell.

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