UK To Build Useless Facial Recognition System

from the tax-dollars-at-work dept

After 9/11, there was a lot of talk about using facial recognition systems in various cities and airports. Even the Superbowl used one to try to spot "bad people" watching the big game. However, within a few years, people began to realize that such facial recognition systems don't really work for such applications. Facial recognition systems are barely good enough to match two faces in still photos -- but when you add in grainy video, different lighting and different angles it doesn't even come close to being effective. In Tampa, which had been the poster child for facial recognition security systems, the police shut it down after it didn't catch a single person in two years. Meanwhile, at Boston's Logan airport, the system was so bad it couldn't even catch the "tester" criminals they put into the system to see if it was working. With that in mind, you have to wonder why the UK has decided to build a nationwide facial recognition system to try to catch criminals spotted on any of the many, many security cameras found throughout Great Britain. Once again, it seems like the type of system being put in place for politicians to say they're making things safer, without actually making anyone safer.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Posterlogo, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:18am

    It's not perfected yet. So we should never try. Any thing that doesn't immediately work should be given up on FOREVER. NEVER. Goddamn wright brothers.

    See the gist of where I'm going?

     

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  2.  
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    Mitch W, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:20am

    Wow politicians are the same everywhere!

    I wonder why we can't seem to slap some sense into these people!

     

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  3.  
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    Rikko, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:23am

    Re:

    Agreed with the first commenter.. Seems a rather Luddite position to take. They said the same about virtually every pioneered technlogy to date.. Techdirt of all places I thought I'd see recognition of this, but apparently not today.
    It may be a big task but it's simply a matter of figuring out the programming. We have the computing power and the knowledge (spread across umpteen disciplines).. Someone just has to be the first to put it together.

     

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  4.  
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    justthinking, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:27am

    re:

    it wont take long at all before systems like this become much more efficient.

     

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  5.  
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    Captain October, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:27am

    Re:

    the difference there is that BILLIONS/MILLIONS/WHATEVER were not spent on the brothers developing the plane. this is expensive, easily beatable system that is more or less, utterly pointless

     

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  6.  
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    jezsik, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:30am

    Wright brothers indeed!

    So these guys watched other inventors trying to imitate the flapping wings of birds and thought there should be a better way. Posterlogo seems to suggest the boys ought to have kept trying that which did not work.

    Make it actually work before you put it into place (at public expense)!

     

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  7.  
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    Topher3105, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:33am

    Re: Posterlogo

    Its not about not trying, its about getting politicians to stop wasting taxpayers money on systems that don't work yet.

    It would be like British Airways offering trans-Atlantic flights using the Wright brother's plane.

    Its not about NOT developing the technology, its about deciding when it is time to use it, and it ain't time yet.

     

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  8.  
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    Jason, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:35am

    Improved Tech?

    The tech might be the key here. depending on what sort of quid they are going to put into the system. Camera technology has vastly improved, so much so that the high end camera makers have stopped trying to up their megapixel numbers and are focusing on things like light sensitivite and grainy photos from digital cameras. If they are combining the latest camera tech with good programming (that will be rare) then this system could easily be effective. Another potential application they should try to combine with this is a recognition system for license plates on autos. If a vehicle registered to a suspect is parked in the parking lot of a building it is a good place to start looking for them.

     

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  9.  
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    anon, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:38am

    For those that don't understand

    The reason this is stupid isn't because they are developing technology, but because they are using an infant technology that needs a lot more test work before it is deployed.

    Did the Wright brothers create their aircraft, get 50 or 60 people on it knowing it didn't fly in the test runs, then fall over a cliff with them? No. It was in testing until it worked. Then out came commercial aircraft.

    Too many things get put out too early in their life cycle because the government or individuals want to have the appearance of moving us into the bleeding edge of science. I'd personally rather see money spent on tried and true techniques to actually capture criminals while facial recognition is still in the lab.

     

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  10.  
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    SuckerPunch-tm, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:40am

    Miss the point much

    by Posterlogo on May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:18am
    It's not perfected yet. So we should never try. Any thing that doesn't immediately work should be given up on FOREVER. NEVER. Goddamn wright brothers.

    See the gist of where I'm going?


    It isn't about saying to abandon the idea, it's about the effective use of taxpayers (presumably) money on things that actually work TODAY, not at some indeterminate day somewhere in the unforseeable future.

    See the gist of where I'm going?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Mike (profile), May 23rd, 2006 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re:

    Seems a rather Luddite position to take. They said the same about virtually every pioneered technlogy to date..

    Not a Luddite position at all. If your gov't was going to spend millions, if not billions, of dollars on a new technology, shouldn't there be at least some proof that it works? If the tech is improving, run a small trial somewhere.

     

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  12.  
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    NRK, May 23rd, 2006 @ 12:27pm

    Didn't it take Edison's knowlege of 10,000 items that were not good lightbulb filiments before he found the right one? He would never say failures!

     

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  13.  
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    Faz, May 23rd, 2006 @ 12:31pm

    I agree

    I agree, test it on casinos first with dummy data (e.g. employee pictures), even maybe with gov funding. once we have the technology perfected.. TADAAA put it everywhere.

    thought of the moment: if someone grows a beard.. it will catch them right...

     

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  14.  
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    anonymous coward, May 23rd, 2006 @ 12:49pm

    brits have an advantage. there facial recognition systems key off of dental abnormalities and since the britis have worst teeth in the western world, the system will actually work there.

     

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  15.  
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    racing_spirits, May 23rd, 2006 @ 12:55pm

    you guys

    you all seem to focus on the technical asoects which, we all know, will be figured out sooner or later. So what if the system will - in one steo - do away with your right to privacy, to be yourself, to go where you want when you want without some camera somewhere watching you.

    Shades of 1984, which some of us DO NOT WANT, now or ever.

    If you don't know what 1984 is, go get the book and scare sh*it out of yourself.

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    Vegas

    They need to look at the casinos, I beleve they are already using systems to catch the card counters now.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2006 @ 1:02pm

    OMG just maybe the UK could succeed in something the US have failed... never!!

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 23rd, 2006 @ 1:09pm

    Nobody here is paranoid?

    Scannign comments, and don't see a single conspiracy theorist pointing out that if they admitted it worked, everyone would scream invasion of privacy. Tell everyone it's broken, and they just argue about your technology.

    Still think it doesn't work?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    JM, May 23rd, 2006 @ 1:14pm

    Re:

    The article makes perfect sense. Nobody said give-up on the technology!

    Sorry, but too many people bitch about this kind of comment without actually using brain cells. This article plainly states that it's pointless to launch a system that is well known to be useless under the guise of making people safer. The fact is this technology needs vast improvement and pertending it's worth spending the money to set up a national infastructure for such a system is, quite frankly, pretty rediculous.

    If any of you can point out where in TFA it states we shouldn't continue to improve the technology my hats off to you...until then, GTFU.

     

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  20.  
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    von hell, May 23rd, 2006 @ 1:18pm

    political lens

    It's obvious that the reason for dismissing this endeavor is rooted in a political position. The technology mentioned is being used to monitor individuals and provide the government with increased capabilities to capture criminals. Thus the expenditure on the technology is outrageous and the technology hopeless. The predisposition to assume that our politicians simply want to say they are making things safer without actually doing anything, of course reinforces the previous assumptions.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    JM, May 23rd, 2006 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Nobody here is paranoid?

    LOL - have any evidence of this? Let's just be paranoid all the time because... Oooh the satellite’s are watching!

    It's ok to be somewhat warry but outright paranoia without reason? Where there is evidence to support a reason to be paranoid then call it out. There is no value in paranoia without cause.

     

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  22.  
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    Mischa, May 23rd, 2006 @ 6:59pm

    Re: Not Perfect

    There is a big difference between 'not perfected yet' and 'did not catch a single person in two years'. Sure companies can still work to perfect the process but governments shouldn't be paying $$ to install something that doesn't work.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    kweeket, May 23rd, 2006 @ 11:52pm

    1984 != 2006 (if we're smart)

    In the article, it sounds as if there are already plenty of cameras in public places in the UK already. So your concerns about loss of privacy are a little late.

    However, I think privacy is still maintained, since there is no government video surveillance in people's homes - only public spaces. And public spaces are, by definition, already not private.

    BUT I don't like that the British government seems to be hoarding the information they gather, leading to a scary 1984-esque imbalance of power. Transparency might be a solution to this problem - if everyone is allowed to check the same video feeds to which the police have access, who watches the watchers then? Well....everybody.

     

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