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UK police consider facial recognition technology for 2012 Olympics

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hatien


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THE UK POLICE are considering implementing facial recognition technology for the London 2012 Olympic Games after some of the worst rioting and looting across the country in years this week.

The technology is already being used by police and has helped identify some of the culprits behind the recent violence and destruction, but police are considering upping the ante to deploy facial recognition on a much larger scale.

A senior police officer told the Associated Press that the technology is on the shortlist for measures to improve security for the upcoming Olympics. A press officer anonymously confirmed that this is in the works, adding that it generally will only be employed for suspects of serious crimes, such as assault.

The system works by taking photographs of people and sending them back to Scotland Yard, which then employs face-matching software to identify people. The software maps the human face, dividing it into grids, and measures the distance between key features like eyes, nose and mouth. It also has been upgraded recently to enhance its accuracy.

The problem with the system is that the police need a good high-quality picture of a suspect to start with, and they also need something to match it with, so it will be no good for identifying people who do not already have a criminal record.

So far police are using several methods to identify suspects behind this week's crimes, including uploading photos of suspects to Flickr. The police are also searching the internet for new or higher quality photographs of rioters, including some that might be uploaded to social networks like Facebook and Google+.

The problem for the UK is that enhanced facial recognition, coupled with new proposed police powers, could create a worrying situation for the privacy of law-abiding citizens. Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed the idea of temporarily downing mobile phone instant messaging services used to organise some of the riots. This is a policy that strays dangerously close to communication bans imposed by authoritarian regimes like those in Egypt and Libya earlier this year.

The use of technology by the police goes even further, with arrests being made on the basis of rioting and looting threats made on social networks, an effort to stop unrest before it hits the streets. This highlights the potential value of the internet and technology to the police, while also revealing how little privacy there is online.


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