Germany Interior Minister Pushing For Deployment Of Facial Recognition Software In Public Areas

from the StasiTV dept

Facial recognition software is the wave of the future present. The FBI — acting without a required Privacy Impact Assessment — rolled out its system in 2014, finding that a 20% false hit rate was good enough for government (surveillance) work.

Following in the footsteps of Facebook, governments slanting towards the authoritarian side (that’s you, Russia!) have deployed facial recognition software to help ensure its citizens are stripped of their anonymity.

Other governments not so seemingly bent on obedience to the state have done the same. UK law enforcement has quietly built a huge facial recognition database and Brazil experimented with police equipment that would turn officers into Robocops — providing real-time facial recognition to cops via some sort of Google Glass-ish headgear. If what we know about facial recognition software’s accuracy rates holds true, the goggles will, indeed, do nothing.

Germany has maintained an arm’s-length relationship with its troublesome past. The Stasi and Gestapo’s lingering specters still haunt current legislators, occasionally prompting them to curb domestic surveillance efforts. Concerns for the privacy of its citizens has also sometimes resulted in the government making angry noises at tech companies it feels are overstepping their boundaries.

Four years ago, it demanded Facebook destroy data on German citizens in its facial recognition database. Judging from the current push by German officials, it could just be thata the government didn’t want any competition.

Speaking to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, [Interior Minister] Thomas de Maiziere said internet software was able to determine whether people shown in photographs were celebrities or politicians.

“I would like to use this kind of facial recognition technology in video cameras at airports and train stations. Then, if a suspect appears and is recognised, it will show up in the system,” he told the paper.

This move towards a more Stasi-esque surveillance system is, of course, prompted by recent terrorist attacks in Germany. Nothing propels bad legislation and lowers the price on domestic surveillance real estate more efficiently than tragedies — especially those “claimed” after-the-fact by members of the Islamic State.

For those more concerned with lonely baggage, the government is all over that, too.

He said a similar system was already being tested for unattended luggage, which the camera reports after a certain number of minutes.

The lesson here is never forget where you set down your duffel bag — unless you like watching it being detonated by security teams from a safe distance.

As for the dystopian future awaiting Germans as their government does all it can to help the terrorists win, the Interior Minister offers this shrug of a statement:

“We will have to get used to increased security measures, such as longer queues, stricter checks or personal entry cards. This is tedious, uncomfortable and costs time but I don’t think it’s a limitation of personal freedom,” he said.

Longer lines and more “papers, please” — just the sort of thing that will push memories of Nazi Germany and the Berlin Wall into the background.

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Comments on “Germany Interior Minister Pushing For Deployment Of Facial Recognition Software In Public Areas”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

"For the Fatherla- I mean National Security!"

“We will have to get used to increased security measures, such as longer queues, stricter checks or personal entry cards. This is tedious, uncomfortable and costs time but I don’t think it’s a limitation of personal freedom,” he said.

Good to hear, in that case I propose that the first buildings these security measures are installed in are government ones. If terrorists want to make a statement a government target is a pretty obvious one I’d think, as such clearly the first people that should be ‘protected’ by those measures are the politicians.

I’ve no doubt that in the name of security the various politicians will have absolutely no problem being run through metal detectors, pat-downs, required to carry and present identification at numerous checkpoints around and inside the government offices, and be tracked via camera and RFID chips built in to their required identification everywhere they go within and near the buildings.

It’s for security after all, who could possibly object to that?

Arthur Moore (profile) says:

Re: "For the Fatherla- I mean National Security!"

Umm, many US court houses have at least some of that. Honestly, first you see these things in airports, then you see them in government buildings.

Keep in mind that legislators only complain when the other person is in charge. When they’re on top they aren’t concerned.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: "For the Fatherla- I mean National Security!"

Hmmm, it is likely that the incidents of the unwashed masses (AKA terrorists) attend court houses more than other government buildings. Actually, they are required to, jury duty, witnesses, etc.

The government has reason (as unreasonable as it is) to fear the public, especially when they encroach on ‘their’ territory.

Anonymous Coward says:

The line the Berlin Wall used to hold can be clearly seen as you pass through the city.

My parents made a point of telling my siblings and I that we were seeing history in the making as we watched coverage of the wall coming down. For those in the east, life was going to change for the better as they would get to enjoy all the freedoms the west had to offer.

After all the propaganda about how terrible life was in the east (they used to spy on each other!), it turns out the western side of the wall was just envious of the techniques the east side got to deploy, and was taking notes on what worked and what didn’t so they could do it better.

TRX (profile) says:

The FBI’s deployment of facial recognition software in various airports and Federal buildings was a topic of discussion when I first started reading the usenet comp.risks newsgroup back in… 1986.

I imagine they’ve moved right along in the last thirty years.

I keep expecting trouble, someday. A guy named Hassan Nasrallah has been near the top of the Most Wanted Terrorist list for a long time. Unfortunately, though he is Lebanese and I’m Irish/Cherokee, a roll of the genetic dice makes us the next thing to identical twins.

There might be 7 billion humans on Earth, but there aren’t 7 billion unique faces…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

About the same as anything else.

There are billions of people in the world and at even 99.9% accuracy…. there are millions of innocents fucked over by it all.

No, it will not be 99.9% either. Like all other tools used by government… it’s mistakes will be used as an excuse to “visit” innocents for the purposes of a shake down.

I would feel sorry for those poor citizens, but…
“Every Nation gets the Government it deserves!”

Anonymous Coward says:

20% false positives? pls check math

I’m not very good at percent calculations, is this correct?

When 1000 people us the train to get to work and are scanned in the train station then the systems shows 200 warnings? Then when they arrive at their destination they are scanned again and this system sends 200 warnings too?
And in the evening it sends another 400 warnings?

So 800 warnings per day per 1000 people using the train to get to work.

Given that the minister mentioned that they know of 500 potentially dangerous people who the system would scan for that system seems ineffective.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 20% false positives? pls check math

Even if the accuracy rate is 99.9% you would get 1 hit per 1,000. So if the train gets 5,000 riders each way, each day, you’d be getting 10 hits per day. How long would it take you to start ignoring all of the false-positives and just hit the OK button rather than wasting your time each day tracking dead end leads?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 20% false positives? pls check math

“How long would it take you to start ignoring all of the false-positives and just hit the OK button rather than wasting your time each day tracking dead end leads?”

You assume those people controlling this system are rational. My guess is they add those people to the list of possible offenders. After all, a system that cost you a huge amount of money and produces additional costs each year can’t be wrong, right?
Heck back in ’01-’03 it was enough to give soldiers a deck of cards to cover all terrorists and now there are what? 10.000+ people on the list?

Unless a system produces results it gets shut down so guess what, it produces results no matter what.

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