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UK police use of facial recognition tests public's tolerance

SeattlePI.com Thursday, 16 January 2020 ()
LONDON (AP) — When British police used facial recognition cameras to monitor crowds arriving for a soccer match in Wales, some fans protested by covering their faces. In a sign of the technology’s divisiveness, even the head of a neighboring police force said he opposed it.

The South Wales police deployed vans equipped with the technology outside Cardiff stadium this week as part of a long-running trial in which officers scanned people in real time and detained anyone blacklisted from attending for past misbehavior. Rights activists and team supporters staged a protest before the game between Cardiff City and Swansea City, wearing masks, balaclavas or scarves around their faces.

“It's disproportionate to the risk,” said Vince Alm, chairman of the Football Supporters’ Association Wales, which helped organized the protest. “Football fans feel as if they're being picked on” and used as guinea pigs to test new technology, he said.

The real-time surveillance being tested in Britain is among the more aggressive uses of facial recognition in Western democracies and raises questions about how the technology will enter people's daily lives. Authorities and companies are eager to use it, but activists warn it threatens human rights.

The British have long become used to video surveillance, with one of the highest densities of CCTV cameras in the world. Cameras have been used in public spaces for decades by security forces fighting threats from the Irish Republican Army and, more recently, domestic terror attacks after Sept. 11, 2001.

The recent advances in surveillance technology mean a new wave of facial recognition systems will put the public's acceptance to the test.

South Wales police have taken the lead in Britain. In 2017 they started rolling out and testing face scanning cameras after getting a government...
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