Coun­cil to use fa­cial recog­ni­tion cameras to mon­i­tor pub­lic


CON­TRO­VER­SIAL Big Brother-style sur­veil­lance soft­ware will be used to mon­i­tor the pub­lic across the city in a bid to stamp out crime.

BIG Brother-style “fa­cial recog­ni­tion” soft­ware in­stalled on cameras in Glas­gow will al­low coun­cil staff to mon­i­tor crowds and look out for in­trud­ers or peo­ple loi­ter­ing in parks, land­marks and back lanes, a free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest has re­vealed.

The de­tails emerged in guid­ance for staff on how to use the Sus­pect Search sys­tem which has been in­stalled on around 70 CCTV cameras in the city.

They show that of­fi­cers of Po­lice Scot­land and staff of the Glas­gow City Coun­cil arm­slength body Community Safety Glas­gow (CSG) will make use of “ad­vanced video an­a­lyt­ics” to track down in­di­vid­u­als in­volved in crime or anti-so­cial be­hav­iour, and at­tempt to lo­cate vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als and miss­ing chil­dren.

How­ever the pri­vacy cam­paigner who forced the re­lease of the doc­u­ment has warned of a lack of trans­parency over how the sys­tem will be used, and ques­tioned whether users will need to be au­tho­rised and if so who by.

Pippa King said: “I had to go to the In­for­ma­tion com­mis­sioner to get Glas­gow to re­lease this doc­u­ment. But it still doesn’t tell us whether they will have to seek le­gal ad­vice or hu­man rights groups about this.”

“For ex­am­ple, who de­cides what loi­ter­ing is, and what ar­eas peo­ple are to be ex­cluded from? Who is go­ing to over­see and check this? No­body I sus­pect. There is no other per­son tracking sys­tem op­er­at­ing like this in Europe.”

She said the pub­lic were not be­ing in­formed about a sig­nif­i­cant change in the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of CCTV in pub­lic ar­eas, Ms King added.

“Peo­ple should have an ex­pec­ta­tion that they can live their lives free of in­tru­sion and sur­veil­lance. If you want to live in Glas­gow you may soon not have that choice.”

The doc­u­ment “op­er­a­tional use of Ad­vanced Video An­a­lyt­ics” sets out an overview of how CSG will use the sys­tem.

The sys­tem has been de­scribed as fa­cial recog­ni­tion, though a Community Safety Glas­gow doc­u­ment set­ting out its use says “the ad­vance func­tions do not pro­vide fa­cial recog­ni­tion, emo­tional recog­ni­tion or any other bio­met­ric type func­tion­al­ity.”

This is be­lieved to re­flect the fact that while the soft­ware can sug­gest po­ten­tial matches, a hu­man op­er­a­tor then has to re­view them to con­firm an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, it also says that a still im­age of a per­son of in­ter­est could be fed into the sys­tem which will then pro­vide pos­si­ble matches and routes they may have fol­lowed. If there is no im­age, it sug­gests an im­age sim­i­lar to a photofit can be used, it says. “If no im­age is avail­able an Avatar can be cre­ated of the de­scrip­tion, which once com­pleted can be put into the sys­tem for pos­si­ble matches.”

The doc­u­ment says the sys­tem doesn’t need to be watched, as it can prompt an op­er­a­tor only when there is some­thing of in­ter­est to view.

“Stan­dard” uses, it says, would be to de­tect in­tru­sion in iden­ti­fied ar­eas “such as parks (nights) Glas­gow land­marks (foun­tains) or ar­eas iden­ti­fied by communitie­s caus­ing con­cerns (lanes, play ar­eas).”

The tech­nol­ogy will also be used to set up cameras so that they alert of­fi­cers if some­one en­ters a spec­i­fied area, and to iden­tify in­di­vid­u­als deemed to be loi­ter­ing, and CSG also stre­ses the use of the sys­tem in lo­cat­ing crim­i­nals, iden­ti­fy­ing vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple and tracking and lo­cat­ing miss­ing chil­dren.

But Ms King said she was un­con­vinced. “They may not call it fa­cial recog­ni­tion but it is cer­tainly ca­pa­ble of recog­nis­ing faces,” she said.

Those tasked with us­ing the sys­tem will be trained in in­ci­dent man­age­ment and data pro­tec­tion as well as use of the soft­ware it­self, and only those au­tho­rised to op­er­ate Sus­pect Search will be per­mit­ted to use it.

A spokesman for Community Safety Glas­gow said: “There is no con­firmed date as to when the sus­pect search soft­ware will be put into op­er­a­tion as it is still go­ing through the nor­mal le­gal and ap­proval process.

“Once ap­proved, the sys­tem will only be op­er­ated by vet­ted staff and will aid op­er­a­tors in speed­ing up the process in look­ing for a miss­ing child, for ex­am­ple, in the city.”

He said it did not use ‘fa­cial recog­ni­tion’ tech­nol­ogy as such: “Sus­pect Search soft­ware al­lows op­er­a­tors to use a va­ri­ety of other in­for­ma­tion to search camera feeds.”

Peo­ple should have an ex­pec­ta­tion that they can live their lives free of in­tru­sion and sur­veil­lance

The new soft­ware will al­low coun­cil staff to mon­i­tor crowds and look out for in­trud­ers

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