Scottish football league considers facial recognition to identify troublemakers

January 20, 2016 - 

The Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) has asked the government for financial support to introduce facial recognition technology to identify troublemakers in stadiums next season, according to a report by STV News.

The goal in implementing the technology, which could cost up to £4m, is to identify those guilty of violence, offensive singing, using pyrotechnics and exhibiting any other prohibited behaviour.

One proposal would see the creation of a database of fans who should be banned from stadiums across the country. If someone who is banned should try to enter a stadium, the club would be notified and have to ensure blacklisted fans were unable to gain access to matches.

Sports fans and privacy advocates have concerns.

“The SFSA would be concerned at a rushed move towards intrusive surveillance,” said Simon Barrow, chairman of the Scottish Football Supporters Association (SFSA). “There needs to be careful consultation with fans and clubs, alongside wider consideration of how to deal effectively and proportionately with threatening and insulting behaviour.”

Pol Clementsmith of Open Rights Group (ORG) Scotland said the technology would encroach on people’s right to privacy and may unfairly target football fans.

“There are serious concerns with data protection,” he said. “How would the information be held? Are vulnerable people being filmed? How could someone request the data if it was privately held? Is the information commissioner happy with this plan?”

Last year, Police Scotland alarmed civil liberties advocates when they admitted to using face recognition technology to identify individuals captured on CCTV cameras and from other sources, as well as retaining these images in a database.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.