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Lischka also wanted a comprehensive update of the country’s security technology, saying that installing such system on outdated computers “is like putting frosting on a cake that hasn’t been baked”.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