German officials have begun testing facial recognition technology at Berlin’s Südkreuz train station. The aim is to determine whether implementing the biometric identification technology with CCTV cameras could help to boost security, particularly with respect to preventing terrorism, by identifying suspects automatically as they pass through the station.
The trial has attracted about 300 volunteers, who have provided police with their names and two photos each of their faces. The volunteers are to carry transponders with them as they pass through the station, allowing authorities to assess how often the surveillance systems are able to detect them.
Privacy advocates have expressed concern. Berlin’s data security officer said the system poses “enormous risk of abuse”, while the country’s Federal Data Protection Commissioner said a wider deployment of the technology “would be a major violation of fundamental rights.” But Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who has been calling for the use of such surveillance technology since last summer, said it “serves as a deterrent against crime and helps them investigate offences.”
Organizers of the tests are not paying the volunteers, but have offered those whose faces are recognized over a 25-day period a €25 Amazon coupon each; the volunteers whose faces are recognized most often over a six-month period are eligible to win special prizes like an Apple Watch. While the trial is ostensibly meant to test the effectiveness of such surveillance technology under normal conditions, the rewards appear to incentivize volunteers to make their faces obvious to surveillance cameras.
August 2, 2017 – by Alex Perala