Ger­many mulls face recog­ni­tion tech

Lesotho Times - - International - — Al­jazeera

BERLIN — Ger­many’s In­te­rior Min­is­ter says he wants to in­tro­duce fa­cial recog­ni­tion software at train sta­tions and air­ports to help iden­tify sus­pects fol­low­ing two at­tacks in the coun­try last month.

In a re­port pub­lished on Sun­day in the Ger­man news­pa­per Bild

am Son­ntag, Thomas de Maiziere said in­ter­net software was able to de­ter­mine whether per­sons shown in pho­to­graphs were celebri­ties or politi­cians.

“I would like to use this kind of fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy in video cam­eras at air­ports and train sta­tions. Then, if a sus­pect ap­pears and is recog­nised, it will show up in the sys­tem,” he told the pa­per.

He said a sim­i­lar sys­tem was al­ready be­ing tested for unat­tended lug­gage, which the cam­era re­ports af­ter a cer­tain num­ber of min­utes.

Other coun­tries are also look­ing at such tech­nol­ogy, but Ger­mans have tra­di­tion­ally been scep­ti­cal of sur­veil­lance due to abuses by the Stasi se­cret po­lice in East Ger­many and the Gestapo un­der the Nazis.

Kon­stantin von Notz, a spokesper­son for the Green Party on dig­i­tal is­sues, said de Maiziere’s plan was “half-baked”.

He told dpa news agency that the tech­nol­ogy would en­tail enor­mous costs and, in his view, should only be used for cer­tain events.

“For ex­am­ple, if one had a con­crete in­di­ca­tion of a planned at- tack at an air­port.”

Ger­many on edge

Burkhard Lis­chka, the do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal af­fairs ex­pert for the cen­tre-left So­cial Democrats, also told DPA that he “wouldn’t be against such mea­sures”.

But Lis­chka also wanted a com­pre­hen­sive up­date of the coun­try’s se­cu­rity tech­nol­ogy, say­ing that in­stalling such sys­tem on out­dated com­put­ers “is like putting frost­ing on a cake that hasn’t been baked”.

Ger­many is on edge af­ter the armed group ISIS claimed two at­tacks in July, one on a train near Wuerzburg and one at a mu­sic fes­ti­val in Ans­bach, in which 20 peo­ple were in­jured.

As a re­sult, or­gan­is­ers of the world’s biggest beer fes­ti­val, Munich’s Ok­to­ber­fest, have raised se­cu­rity, in­clud­ing ban­ning ruck­sacks, in­tro­duc­ing se­cu­rity checks at all en­trances and erect­ing fenc­ing.

De Maiziere said a ban on ruck­sacks at large-scale events could also be use­ful, adding that it would be up to on-site se­cu­rity of­fi­cials to take that de­ci­sion.

“We will have to get used to in­creased se­cu­rity mea­sures, such as longer queues, stricter checks or per­sonal en­try cards.

“This is te­dious, un­com­fort­able and costs time but I don’t think it’s a lim­i­ta­tion of per­sonal free­dom,” he said.

The sys­tem reads fa­cial im­age data from IC chips em­bed­ded in a pass­port and com­pares it against a pho­to­graph taken at the im­mi­gra­tion gate to de­ter­mine if it is the same per­son.

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