May 31, 2016 -
Turkey’s Ekin Technology was recently granted a U.S. patent for a light bar with an integrated license plate reader (LPR), speedometer, and facial recognition capability, according to a report on Ars Technica.
Agencies ranging from the FBI to the California attorney general’s office have expressed their interest in the “Ekin Patrol” technology but privacy advocates are concerned.
“The facial recognition equivalent of license plate reader scanning has always been a civil liberties nightmare,” Jay Stanley, an analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, told Ars. “We’ve definitely seen baby steps in that direction, but this technology, if widely deployed, would mean it’s arrived.”
Dave Maass, a researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also remains concerned that if this tech does come to the United States, law enforcement agencies will be quick to deploy it without considering potential repercussions first.
“No police department should be testing this without having a hard policy in place and going through the governing body,” he told Ars by e-mail. “Under what circumstances can the police use it, when do they delete it, can anybody see it or must you have reasonable suspicion? But it raises different privacy issues because you have a choice whether you’re going to drive or not. Having a car is a privilege, but everyone has a face and people shouldn’t have to worry about being tracked simply because they step outside. If I was a police officer, I would be concerned about my whereabouts being put into a database.”
Akif Ekin, the founder of Ekin Technology, told Ars that the Ekin Patrol’s facial recognition feature is only being tested in a small percentage of agencies in various pilot locations and that the system is not perfect. “The system will suggest to you that it might be this person, but you should not expect it to work like a passport system,” he said. Ekin also said that the company will only activate the facial recognition capability if the relevant law enforcement agency says that it is legal in that jurisdiction.
An Ekin Patrol installation costs between $20,000 and $50,000 depending on features selected and has been available in Europe for about a year.
The company will be demonstrating the surveillance system at a police conference in San Diego this fall.