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Facial recognition systems for police advance in Dubai, Macau, but not Birmingham, AL

NYPD condemned, UK Biometrics Commissioner offers help for data retention


Dubai is planning to implement facial recognition on its public transport system to improve security, the Deccan Herald reports.

The emirate is preparing for Expo 2020, and also looking to develop its smart city capabilities, according to the article, by installing the biometric technology in metro stations. Expo 2020 is now planned for October 2021, and had previously been expected to bring up to 15 million visitors to the city. By then, all metro stations are expected to have facial recognition deployed.

A special U.S.-trained police unit held a simulated rescue utilizing the facial recognition system, which was observed by Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed.

Other technologies used to limit the spread of COVID-19, including helmets with thermal cameras and smart glasses, will be used to identify people and manage large crowds, the Herald writes. A police representative says the use of facial recognition will enable suspects to be identified in less than a minute.

Macau moves to second testing phase for public facial recognition system

The first tests of Macau’s new public facial recognition and license plate-reading system have been completed successfully, according to the Unitary Police Service (SPU) and reported by Macau Business.

Authorities tested each capability on about 50 cameras, and found that the identification of targeted individuals is accelerated by their use. Police loaded images of simulated suspects into the server and used the ‘Eyes in the Sky’ to find them, after which the results were checked manually.

The test was carried out with authorization from the Office for Personal Data Protection (GPDP), SPU says.

The next testing phase will begin at the end of October on 100 more cameras, and be completed by the end of the year. Authorities plan to install 2,600 surveillance cameras around the city by 2023, and 4,2000 by 2028. Data collected by the system is planned for destruction 60 days after it is captured.

The 820 cameras already in use have contributed to more than 5,000 investigations so far, according to local authorities.

No biometrics for Birmingham’s Real Time Crime Center

Birmingham, Alabama is acquiring Motorola software to operate a Real Time Crime Center capable of feeding live video to Birmingham Police Headquarters, but without an integrated facial recognition capability, Governing reports.

“We want to put explicit language in place around facial recognition to quell any concerns there might be around that particular technology,” said City Council Member Hunter Williams, according to the report. “There is obviously a lot of concern, some of it very legitimate, that the city of Birmingham was overstepping and becoming too much of Big Brother.”

License plate reading software is required, but Birmingham’s mayor stated that facial recognition “mis-identifies people of color at alarming rates.”

Critics suggested that the software, which is costing the cash-strapped city over a million dollars, can still be used to monitor and track legally protected political activities like protests without facial recognition.

NYPD volume of facial recognition searches condemned by advocacy group

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP) has issued a statement condemning the New York Police Department’s use of facial recognition to conduct more than 22,000 searches over the past three years.

The disclosure of the volume of biometrics use came as a result of STOP’s freedom of information lawsuit against the department, according to the release.

“The NYPD is running rampant with facial recognition,” states Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn. “These numbers prove what many of us have long feared, that the NYPD is using facial recognition more often and for less serious crimes. We’re sold this technology with the promise that it will be used for violent crimes, but then it’s inevitably used to simply police crimes of poverty. And even as we witness a growing national consensus that facial recognition is biased, broken, and incompatible with a democratic society, the NYPD continues to accelerate their program. The response is clear: we must ban facial recognition.”

UK Commissioner provides police guidance for retention requests

The UK’s Office of the Biometrics Commissioner has issued a guide to help police complete applications for the retention of DNA or fingerprint biometric records.

The Biometrics Commissioner expressed support for the extended retention period for biometric data in September, explaining that limited police resources were making it impossible for them to follow the normal processes for determining when national security threats merit the storage of records beyond their usual term.

The guidance reviews the relevant deadlines and notification processes, and provides details on how the applications should be filled out.

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