Face biometrics deployed for train station security in Asia, Germans pushback on public surveillance

Facial recognition for train station security and ticketing roll out in Asia, while Germans pushback on the biometric surveillance tech

Osaka Metro in Japan started testing in December a facial recognition solution that lets people take the train just by showing their face, without having to use a ticket or an IC card, writes the Asahi Shimbun. The system has been implemented at four stations to register faces in advance and compare them at the entrance.

The pilot focuses for now only on employees and will run until September. By the fiscal year 2024, the goal is to address all possible issues and then install the facial recognition system at all metro stations in the city.

“We’ll emphasize as an advantage the fact that passengers with large luggage will be able to pass gates simply by showing their faces instead of looking for tickets,” said Takahiro Ide, a senior Osaka Metro official.

Before roll-out, a demo was presented at Dome-mae Chiyozaki Station on the Nagahori Tsurumi-ryokuchi Line when a camera identified in a matter of second an employee’s facial features upon entering the gate. It then compared the features with preregistered images.

Osaka Metro reports identification errors when a mask is worn, but hopes to fix them during the pilot.

In December, Japan announced it would install facial recognition boarding at three main airports before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo to reduce wait times and improve security and boarding processes.

China introduces biometric facial recognition tech on train, railway station

China has introduced a new high-speed, driverless train with facial recognition for check-in, writes Bloomberg. The smart train has 5G and wireless charging. It drives itself at 200mph, which means it can drive 108 miles in 47 minutes. It will take passengers from Beijing to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Beijing Railway Station has deployed facial recognition in 30 self-service ticket checking machines to reduce processing times during the 40-day Spring Festival, according to Beijing International. The institution expects more than 8.34 million passengers will use the service.

India installs facial recognition at train station

Indian railways installed AI-backed facial recognition at Bengaluru, Manmad and Bhusawal to boost security.

The Railway Protection Force (RPF) wants to leverage the technology to analyze faces, compare them to existing databases such as Criminal Tracking Network and systems, and catch criminals at stations, as explained in a PTI report. The facial recognition software will immediately alert RPF if a criminal is identified. While it is currently in testing period, the plan is to roll out the technology across the Indian Railways network.

Other plans include adding video surveillance system (VSS) that will monitor 983 railway stations. To ensure a clear image, it will install four types of full-HD cameras- bullet type for platforms, dome type for indoor areas, ultra HD-4k cameras for crucial locations and pan tilt zoom type for parking areas. CCTV live streaming will be shown on multiple screens and video footage will be kept for analysis for 30 days. The organization says videos deemed important will be kept for longer.

The first step involves installing the video surveillance system at 200 railway stations, with 81 completed. Integrated security systems with CCTV cameras are already functional at 11 railway stations.

Germans refuse automatic facial recognition in public places

The German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to install automatic facial recognition at 134 railway stations and 14 airports, but civil society organizations have joined forces with a number of politicians now asking for a ban of the biometric surveillance technology, reports Euractiv Germany.

Seehofer’s plan is to install cameras that can identify people in crowded places and connect it to the country’s facial recognition system.

According to a government spokesperson, an amendment to the Federal Police Act aimed to ensure law enforcement had “improved technical possibilities and, where possible and reasonable, extended responsibilities.”

Viktor Schlüter, activist and founder of the “Digital Freedom” initiative, set up an alliance called “Face Recognition Stop,” arguing there is a high number of people who doubt this proposal can be effective and useful. Schlüter further claims the technology is underdeveloped and may generate “false positives.”

Other groups supporting Schlüter are activists Chaos Computer Club and epicenter.works, and media outlet netzpolitik.org, who stated on January 9 their demand to ban the system as well as a final ban on facial recognition use in public spaces.

A test conducted by the interior ministry in 2018 at the Berlin-Südkreuz station correctly identified 80 percent of people. This figure was challenged by an activist hacker association called the Chaos Computer Club.

“The systems have impressively proven themselves so that a broad introduction is possible”, Seehofer had said at the time.

The leader of the Social Democrats (SPD), Saskia Esken, is also concerned about false positives, as per a Twitter post, dated January 4.

Other concerns are discrimination, citing an MIT study conducted with Microsoft where false positives were more common for people with dark skin, and that people could evade detection by turning their face 15 degrees away of partially covering the face.

Schlüter refuses even a perfectly functioning face recognition system, but notes the government is not malicious in its intent.

“We see great danger in creeping self-restriction,” said Schlüter

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