Police in NYC, South Wales, Dubai deploy more facial recognition, with public support in US
A new survey by Pew Research shows 46 percent of U.S. adults think the “widespread use of facial recognition technology by police to monitor crowds and look for people who may have committed a crime” is a good idea for society. Twenty-seven percent think this would be bad, and 27 percent are unsure, of more than ten thousand surveyed.
This comes as the NYPD brings back its 400-strong Neighborhood Safety Teams to tackle gun crime, this time with with uniforms, body cams, and facial recognition. The South Wales Police are back to live facial recognition trials in public and the Dubai Police are deploying the first of 400 smart patrol vehicles.
Ambivalence towards AI overall, higher safety standards required
The Pew Research study conducted in November 2021 presented respondents with six vignettes involving the use of AI or human enhancements such as brain implants or exoskeletons. For facial recognition, this was law enforcement’s use of the technology.
The 46 percent polling for facial recognition by law enforcement being seen as generally good for society becomes more nuanced when party lines are taken into account. When asked if police facial recognition becomes widespread (it arguably already is in the U.S.), would their greater concern be that the government will go too far or not far enough in regulating the technology, 59 percent of Republican respondents feared the government would go too far while 62 percent of Democrat-leaning respondents thought the government would not go far enough.
Contrary to frequent suggestions of bias in police use of facial recognition, 34 percent think the widespread use of facial recognition by police would make policing fairer compared to 40 percent thinking that it would not make much difference, and 25 percent that it would make policing less fair.
The results show that 57 percent oppose the idea of social media sites using facial recognition to automatically identify people in photos compared to 19 percent in favor, and more oppose than favor the idea that companies might use facial recognition to automatically track the attendance of their employees, at 48 versus 30 percent, notes the results report.
There is hope for improvements in acceptability of facial recognition use by the police. If officers were trained in how the technology can make errors in identifying people before they use it, 64 percent of respondents believed this would make the technology more acceptable. Eleven percent thought it would make it less acceptable and 23 percent expect no change.
NYPD relaunches Neighborhood Safety Teams with facial recognition
New York’s controversial and disproportionately lethal Neighborhood Safety Teams have been relaunched by the city’s mayor, Eric Adams. Formerly plain clothed, the units will have a new uniform, body worn cameras, and facial recognition and weapons detection capabilities, reports Governing. Their cars will be unmarked.
So far, 168 officers have been deployed in 28 areas of the city where shootings have increased during the pandemic. The NYPD Neighborhood Safety Teams members will all wear cameras and are instructed to turn them on anytime they are interacting with civilians. Another tool is intended to help them identity who may be carrying guns.
A further 300 will join them after completing seven days of training which covers community interaction, car stops, use of force and the constitution.
NYPD’s policies and use of face biometrics has been heavily criticized. Crowdsourced investigative work coordinated by Amnesty International found that over 15,000 CCTV cameras with facial recognition are in use across the city, and are particularly prevalent in in areas with Black and Hispanic populations.
All recorded false arrests in New York based on inaccurate FRT have been of Black men, reports the Guardian in an article on the concerns of civil rights activists over the NYPD’s use of the technology.
South Wales Police back out with live facial recognition after court ruling
South Wales will be trialing live facial recognition once again from 19 March 2022, 18 months since the Court of Appeal ruled the force’s use of the technology breach privacy rights and broke equalities law, reports Police Professional.
The trials will be held in the capital, Cardiff, to test the systems. The force claims the use of the technology is proportionate and lawful and will not risk breaching equality requirements.
Its early deployments were seen as a test for other English and Welsh forces (policing in Scotland is separate and live facial recognition is not permitted there). Sixty-one arrests were made before the Court of Appeal’s judgement.
Assistant Chief Constable Mark Travis is quoted as saying: “There was nothing in the Court of Appeal judgment that fundamentally undermined the use of facial recognition to protect the public and I am pleased that the work that has gone on since 2020 will strengthen the operational policies we have in place and win public support through being designed to withstand the most robust legal challenge and public scrutiny.”
In the meantime, the London Metropolitan Police have resumed their live facial recognition operations, making four arrests in Westminster in February.
Dubai Police to launch 400 ‘Ghiath’ patrol vehicles with facial recognition
Four hundred smart patrol vehicles will join the Dubai Police fleet over the next five years, equipped with facial recognition and license plate recognition (LPR/ANPR), plus a roof-mounted 360 degree camera and eight other external cameras, reports the Khaleej Times.
The first batch of 10 UAE-built vehicles has already been dispatched as part of a Dh196 million (US$53.4 million). Future vehicles will have drone capabilities and SWAT vehicles, e-vehicles and e-bikes will be added to the fleet. When the fleet of Ghiath vehicles reaches 400, that is around one for every 7,500 inhabitants.
The vehicles have further interior cameras to monitor the cabin and driver behavior. There is a display center, powerful computers which are linked to the main control center.
The manufacturer, W Motors, believes the vehicles to be at the forefront of smart patrol vehicles worldwide.
Dubai is also adopting facial recognition for public transport and as part of plans to make it the ‘world’s smartest and happiest city’ it is also looking for face biometric verification across the city.
This post was updated at 9:30 pm on March 19, 2022 to correct that the NYPD unit’s facial recognition capability is not integrated into body-cams.