The head of Scotland Yard has suggested that all citizens install CCTV cameras in their homes to help the police catch criminals, according to a Daily Mail article by Chris Greenwood. The head police officer in Britain, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, suggested that facial recognition technology has advanced such that a greater number of CCTV feeds could have a major impact in policing.
Sir Hogan-Howe is correct about the state of technology. Facial recognition technology is already at the point where it’s being used to resolve criminal investigations, and is even being used for real-time monitoring of live video feeds, as in the case of the security efforts protecting President Obama and other officials on a recent state visit to India. So the police chief is certainly correct about the technology’s efficacy.
The problem, of course, is that there are serious civil rights concerns surrounding the technology, and the kind of deployment Sir Hogan-Howe is suggesting is especially problematic. As the Daily Mail article reports, it didn’t take long for the word “Orwellian” to get thrown around (in this case, from a Big Brother Watch spokesperson), while a Labour MP expressed alarm over police’ practice of “uploading custody photographs of people to the police national database and using facial recognition software without any regulatory oversight.”
These are important concerns, and are likely to be much discussed in the coming months and years as this technology continues to pervade policing and other public applications. While these concerns can be seen as a hindrance to the industry, most analysts agree that the technology has a bright future ahead of it, even if compromises need to be made concerning civil liberties and privacy.
March 12, 2015 – by Alex Perala