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Facial recognition for security in Macau, Moscow, and Toronto


Casino operators in Macau may be obligated to deploy biometric facial recognition to their in-house security systems when the local gaming rights contracts expire in 2022, GGRAsia reports.

A senior official of the country’s Unitary Police Service told the Legislative Assembly that a provision requiring facial recognition could be written into the existing gaming law before the next tender is issued, and Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong Lai Tac has said it likely will be.

The city announced plans to deploy facial recognition as part of a public surveillance system late last year, and police hope that cameras deployed to private areas such as inside casinos could help reduce crime in the Cotai casino district.

Melco Resorts and Entertainment, one of six casino operators in Macau, has already committed to deploying facial recognition in its facilities.

Lawmaker Lam Lon Wai told the Assembly that Macau’s Personal Data Protection Law is interfering with law enforcement, according to the Macau Daily Times, citing an 11.7 percent rise in criminal cases from 2017.

Lam wants the government to review the effectiveness and supervision of the country’s surveillance systems ahead of the fifth and sixth phases of implementation, which are due to begin soon. The ‘Eye in the Sky’ system is slated to reach 1,620 cameras by 2020, but the two forthcoming phases will increase the number to 2,600, with more cameras covering schools, public transport hubs, recreational facilities, and commercial districts. The fifth phase will include 50 cameras with license plate recognition, and 50 with facial recognition capabilities.

Moscow camera network expanding rapidly

The public surveillance network of facial recognition cameras in Moscow, which is expected to grow to 105,000 cameras by the end of 2019, will soon consist of 200,000 cameras, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that he will soon announce a competition to create the large-scale biometric system, and there are currently 167,000 cameras installed around the city.

“Now we have tested the video facial recognition in the metro, through cameras at entrance halls and detected dozens of criminals who had been on a wanted list. This year, very soon, we will announce a competition to create a large-scale video recognition system jointly with the Interior Ministry, comprising more than 200,000 CCTV cameras in Moscow. It will become one of the world’s largest, to be only rivalled by Chinese systems,” according to Sobyanin.

The surveillance network is accessible to 16,000 staff of law enforcement agencies at the state and municipal level.

Sobyanin also said that between 40 percent and 70 percent of city call center interactions are handled by chatbots through speech recognition technology.

Toronto police warned facial recognition poses legal risk

Using facial recognition could open Toronto Police Services to class-action lawsuits, the head of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Michael Bryant, says, as reported by the Toronto Star.

In a written statement to police, Bryant said that the recently-revealed use of the technology amounts to “carding by algorithm, and notoriously unreliable,” referring to a controversial police ID-checking practice.

Toronto police Deputy Chief James Ramer disagreed with the comparison to carding, saying: “It’s not indiscriminate, it’s not random. It’s very specific.”

Oversight should be applied to facial recognition use by police at the least, according to Bryant.
Ramer argues that the system avoids retraumatizing victims of crimes by making them go through mugshots.

Former Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario Ann Cavoukian expressed concern about the roll out.

“There is no transparency associated with this,” Cavoukian told the CBC. “And you can’t hold people accountable if you don’t know what’s going on. So this has been taking place for a year. And while people may not be aware of it, there’s a very high false-positive rate for facial recognition.”

The use of facial recognition in public spaces threatens individual privacy and could be abused, according to Cavoukian.

“The Crown has made it very clear that the use of facial recognition in any other way as other jurisdictions have done in scanning crowds would require judicial authorization,” Ramer says. “We have never signed such authorization because we do not use facial recognition in that way.”

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