Automatic Facial Recognition (AFR) technology has been trialed and adopted by law enforcement agencies the world over, and now South Wales authorities have apprehend a wanted man using the innovation - the first force in the UK to do so. However, while making life easier for police, AFR has potentially troubling implications for individual privacy.
South Wales Police didnt provide much in the way of detail about the arrest, although it follows an announcement by the force in April that they intended to scan the faces of people at strategic locations in and around Cardiff city center ahead of the UEFA Champions League final, which was played at the Millennium Stadium June 3.
The arrest is understood to be unconnected to the Champions League, and instead related to an outstanding warrant — it's likely the man's visage was included on the South Wales Police database of custody images, which contains 500,000 mugshots, and was spotted by an AFR-equipped van.
As with other UK policing jurisdictions, South Wales uses hardware and software provided by NEC, a cybersecurity firm leading development on real-time facial recognition solutions, which has been the technology partner for other UK police AFR trials.
In some UK police districts, facial recognition software has been integrated with closed circuit cameras. The UK is already one of the most spied upon nations in the world, with 5.9 million CCTV devices in the country, approximately one for every 11 citizens. Evidently, British criminals on the run are running out of places to hide.
However, it's not merely AWOL criminals the South Wales Police — and presumably other forces in the country, and the wider world — are hoping to catch. The force's top brass have previously indicated NEC's AFR technology would support their emphasis on "early intervention" by allowing officers to identify vulnerability, challenge perpetrators, and prevent offenses before they happen.Sputnik