Cardiff Soccer Fans Protest Face-Based Stadium Surveillance

Biometrics News - Cardiff Soccer Fans Protest Face-Based Stadium Surveillance

Fans of the Cardiff City football club in Wales protested the use of facial recognition technology ahead of a recent game against Swansea City. The South Wales police had deployed two surveillance vans in the area around Cardiff City’s stadium, arguing that the vans would help catch perpetrators wanted for football-related crimes.

The Cardiff City fans, however, felt that the vans were needlessly intrusive. 

“I think the use of this technology is disproportionate to the risk this game poses,” said Vince Alm, a member of the Cardiff supporters’ club. “It infringes on people’s right to privacy. I think there’s an ulterior motive – South Wales police are trialling it and they think they can get away with it at football matches.”

The supporters’ club worked with the civil rights organization Big Brother Watch to organize a protest in response to the police activity. The protesters gathered outside the stadium ahead of the game and wore masks, sunglasses, and scarves to disguise their appearances. They also handed out leaflets to notify other fans about the vans, and warn about the (well documented) racial bias present in many facial recognition algorithms.

“It feels as if our rights are being taken away,” said Cardiff fan Anthony Moore. “It feels as if every single person is under scrutiny now.”

The protest in Cardiff speaks to a desire to slow the expansion of face-based surveillance during sports events. The South Wales police previously used facial recognition at the stadium and Cardiff’s main train station for a match in 2017. The Scottish Professional Football League also explored facial recognition as a potential solution to hooliganism, and stadiums in Belgium, Denmark, and London have already adopted similar tech.

The Cardiff fans had the support of North Wales police and crime commissioner Arfon Jones, who broke from law enforcement’s usual enthusiasm for facial recognition and said that the vans were “a step too far” before the game.

Source: The Guardian

January 13, 2019 – by Eric Weiss