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UK police forces trialing retrospective facial recognition from bodycam maker

UK police forces trialing retrospective facial recognition from bodycam maker

British police forces are testing retrospective facial recognition software provided by Reveal, which also has a product line of bodycams capable of live face biometrics processing, reports the ‘i’.

UK-based Reveal already supplies bodycams for police officers in 30 of the 43 forces across England and Wales, ten of which have already or are about to start testing the company’s retrospective facial recognition software.

Potentially, footage and still images submitted by the public (not police bodycams at this stage) could be analyzed with an algorithm developed at an unnamed “well-known” British university. The algorithm would cross-reference the footage with custody records to identify suspects or people of interest. But given the sensitivity of facial recognition use by the police, the forces currently evaluating the software are doing so with footage and images of their own officers.

Reveal’s K series of bodycams comes with built-in artificial intelligence which requires license activation to function. The higher-spec K7 also offers 3G/4G streaming. The AI included allows real-time facial recognition if activated.

This would allow cameras to constantly monitor people in view, conducting facial recognition against a list of facial profiles of interest. The data of anyone scanned who did not match the list would be instantly deleted, whereas a potential match would trigger actions such as requesting further camera footage and alerting the camera wearer.

Use of live facial recognition by South Wales Police was found to be unlawful by the UK Court of Appeal in August 2020. Neighboring North Wales Police has confirmed it is about to start testing Reveal’s retrospective facial recognition on data not collected in public.

Alasdair Field, CEO of Reveal, told the i that the biometric algorithms could still work even when face paint was applied to try to fool the facial recognition software. He is also confident that the algorithms do not contain any biases. Although the reporter for the i found that the software correctly matched a photo of herself, it identified a photograph of the Queen in her 80s as a teenager.

Reveal’s website reports use cases of their non-facial recognition bodycams elsewhere in the world including Michigan in the U.S.  and Estonia.

Other ranges of bodycams are supplied to medical staff, retail workers and mental healthcare staff. Facial recognition, if activated in such settings, could also alert staff to the appearance of known persons of interest. In all use cases, the forward-facing screens built into the cameras are reported to de-escalate tense situations when aggressors realize they are being filmed.

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