Tag Archives: Surveillance

Interesting

This story about “information artist” Heather Dewey-Hagborg  creating art (face) portraits made based on genetic information from strangers is not new, but it is new to me and I think interesting

http://youtu.be/IIh9X-EZsjI

http://youtu.be/666Kq95xm1o

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23677-artworks-highlight-legal-debate-over-abandoned-dna.html#.VP0QMvmUd8E

http://youtu.be/j2SjNSlRbvM

Department of Parliamentary Services security staff need to identify Parliament House visitors by face – but how?

I’m watching a lot of discussion about the Abbott Government’s embarrassing reversal of the controversial “burqa ban” regarding visitors to the Australian federal parliament in Canberra. Media reports state that all visitors will be required to reveal their faces temporarily to security staff, but there is no proper explanation of why. Why do people need to show their faces to staff, unless their faces are being photographed, recorded or memorized using some kind of technology or human ability, or are being screened in a systematic way by a human or technological system that is based on a suitably comprehensive library of stored or memorized facial images? I have my doubts that any of these things are actually happening. I’ve read nothing to indicate that human super-recognizers or a technological substitute for this kind of face recognition ability is being used by police or security services in Australia, even though there is a large collection of media and scientific reports of human and computerized facial recognition being used in the UK and USA. Another question that I’ve not seen addressed in recent media reports is the question of who is going to be targeted by the new requirement of facial inspection, and what are the criteria for adequate facial disclosure. I believe passport photos require no glasses to be worn and a neutral facial expression, and this certainly makes sense in terms of human facial recognition. Will the same rules apply at Parliament House, or will men be allowed to walk into Parliament without removing any element of the “bogan disguise” of sunglasses, goatee beard and baseball cap? I wonder, are visitors routinely asked to remove hats and hoodies in Parliament House? Why haven’t we had calls for a ban on dark sunglasses in Parliament House? Dark sunnies are clearly used very commonly by Australians of all ethnic backgrounds as a facial concealment. They are very popular among police and also dodgy people. It is pretty obvious to me that racism has played a large role in this hoo-haa over faces and identity and security, because the hypocrisy is obvious.

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/controversial-parliament-house-burqa-ban-dumped-20141020-118j5h.html

The value of CCTV questioned in Queensland

The value of CCTV in preventing crime has been questioned in Queensland following another tragic murder of a young person, which resonates with concerns about CCTV that I’ve aired at this blog in the past. CCTV might be a valuable tool in solving crimes, but everyone would much prefer that crimes be prevented or at least intercepted in a timely manner by police. The full video of this story will probably appear in a day or two at the 7.30 website.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-10/this-week-on-730-queensland/5382066?section=qld

Doco about the UK 2011 riots on Australian television tonight

At 9.30pm on ABC2 (channel 22) an episode in the series Our Crime titled Riot is scheduled for broadcast. It is about the 2011 riots in England, and the CCTV and personal mobile phone footage of the crimes. I don’t know if the role played by police super-recognizers in investigating these crimes will be covered on this TV program, but I guess it might.

http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/our-crime/#episode/ZX9697A001S00

I have now watched the program I didn’t notice any discussion of face recognition or supers, but the episode was well worth watching to gain some insight into the way different people think and behave, but mostly to get to know about the amazing Pauline of Hackney. What a star!

They are developing tests for recruiting super-recognizers into the police in the UK, but don’t ask me what’s happening here

Phillips, Mark London police using crime-fighting “super recognizers” official. CBS News, Dailymotion. Publications date November 12th 2013. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x173o5e_london-police-using-crime-fighting-super-recognizers_news

This is an American report from CBS News published in November 2013 on the use of super-recognizers in London policing. Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville explains how inadequate computer facial recognition was found to be compared with results from police supers. PC Gary Collins and researcher Dr Josh Davis are also interviewed, and super-recognizer police doing identification work are shown. It is revealed that tests are being developed for recruiting super-recognizers into a police force in London. My guess is that this would mean recruiting supers into the police force because they are supers, in addition to their existing policy of finding and utilizing the many supers that they already have serving in this large police force.

Barone, Tayissa Council’s eyes guide long arm of the law. West Australian. September 7th-8th 3013, p.20-21 news.

“The Met” continue to be leaders in the use of human facial super-recognition in policing, but what is happening here in Western Australia with regard to human face recognition and CCTV and policing? As far as I can tell, not a lot. As far as I know there is no testing of any kind of face recognition or face memory ability in police recruitment, and I’ve not read anything about use of supers in any Australian police force. In September 2013 the Weekend West had an article in it about operators at the City of Perth’s surveillance centre working with and beside members of the WA Police to keep things under control in the city streets. The journalist wrote about the tens of millions of dollars that the City of Perth has spent on their CCTV camera network, the “unique” skill set of the surveillance centre operators, their intuitive understanding of body language, their eye for detail, multitasking ability, the keen competition for their jobs and some rigorous battery of testing in which only one out of 160 applicants met the required standard, but not a single mention of face recognition or visual memory.

Western Australia Police Service reduces crime through intelligence-led policing with ABM. ABM United Kingdom Limited. 2012. http://www.abmsoftware.com/en-GB/products/82-uk/news/case-studies/139-western-australia-police-service-reduces-crime-through-intelligence-led-policing-with-abm.html

http://www.mediaforensics.com.au/security-monitoring-centres/

A webpage of a software company ABM boasts that it provides the WA Police with facial recognition technology for use on photos and other static images of offenders, which will probably impress the “boys who love toys” technophile set, but it fails to impress me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there appears to be good evidence that the most able humans can vastly out-perform contemporary facial recognition technology, and secondly, the identification of people from still images of faces or entire bodies is inherently limited. It does not use the wealth of information that one can glean from looking at a moving image. Faces are unique and so are the ways that people move. A moving image is essentially richer and more complete and more natural than looking at a single still image. Study of interviews of super-recognizers yields many clues that supers recognize people, not images and not just faces. Supers can identify people from photos, but it seems likely that the memorization process works best if it is based on watching people, not looking at photos. I am not aware of any face recognition technology that works off moving images, but that might just be a mark of my ignorance. I remain skeptical.

The idea that technology must beat humans in face recognition is a popular one, I think based on some major misconceptions about human psychology and artificial intelligence. I think a lot of people assume that if tasks like visual identification or walking or recognizing voices are effortless for humans then they must be even more easy for a computer system to perform. This shows an ignorance of the millions of years of biological evolution that gave humans and even the most humble animals sensory perception, and the sensory and movement systems of muscles and nerves that give rise to the power of voluntary movement. These processes involve brains as much as they involve sensory organs and muscles. The fact that we are able to do these things without thinking much about them is no indication at all that they are simple. It is just an indication that some of the really clever tasks in cognition are too complex and important to be exposed to the interference of conscious thinking. Attempting to recapitulate the kind of design complexity that is found in biological sensory perception and biological movement with technology and computers would surely keep a designer occupied for a very long time. Good luck with that.

Another story involving the visual recognition of people and CCTV surveillance on Australian 60 Minutes

Can you recognize these faces of Australians who have been reported missing?

http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8640911

Plan to use CCTV and crowd-sourced face recognition to shame Highgate street-whore customers

City of Vincent mayor Alannah MacTiernan said “she wanted the CCTV footage featuring the faces and vehicle licence plates of kerb crawlers to be released publicly in a bid to shame them and deter others”. Ordinary law-abiding citizens have our faces viewed and recorded whenever we go out in public in the city and much of the suburbs, so I don’t see why images of kerb-crawlers in public places shouldn’t also be recorded and scrutinized.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/16584880/plan-to-shame-kerb-crawlers/

It’s a face recognition arms race

While there are many dollars and sharp minds being applied to improving face recognition technology and surveillence, there is also much cleverness being applied with the aim of defeating these efforts.

Are there any technologies to prevent yourself from being captured on camera or video? Quora. http://www.quora.com/Surveillance/Are-there-any-technologies-to-prevent-yourself-from-being-captured-on-camera-or-video#ans1879948

Recent TV news story about “Police super-recognisers” from ITV

Unfortunately I can’t view this as it is blocked for viewing by people from outside the UK, and I live in Australia. I think they call it “geoblocking” or “geo-blocking”. I’m not sure why they do it.

It appears that Dr Josh Davis, a researcher from the University of Greenwich who has been studying the elite squad of super-recognizers at London’s Metropolitan Police, was interviewed for this story. I really would be interested in viewing this story. It would be handy if someone would upload it to YouTube, or something. Dr Davis has already been researching the identification of faces in CCTV images for a number of years, so I would think he could certianly be regarded as an expert in the area.

Police super-recognisers. reporter Sharon Thomas London Tonight. London Regional News. ITV. Tue Feb 28 2012 http://www.itv.com/london/police-super-recognisers19305/

Dr Josh Davis http://www.gre.ac.uk/schools/health/contact/staff/pc/josh-davis

May 2012 – I’ve found a link that appears to give video of the story in a number of different segments:

POLICE / CRIME: London riots 2011: Police ‘Super Recognisers’ track down rioters. ITN Source. February 28th 2012. http://www.itnsource.com/en/jp/shotlist/ITN/2012/02/28/T28021245/?v=0&a=1

June 2012 – I found this quote from a Feb 2012 news webpage from the University of Greenwich http://www.gre.ac.uk/offices/pr/wtps/what-the-papers-say-february-2012

“Dr Josh Davis appeared on ITV London Tonight where he said that he thought super-recognisers, able to identify people from grainy and incomplete CCTV images, were born rather than trained. Members of the police with these skills have been tracking down rioters.”

Press article about “The Met”, superrecognizer police, CCTV and UK rioters now available in PDF – thanks Social Perception Lab

This most interesting article by Jack Grimston from last year is now easily accessible on the internet:

Eagle-Eye of the Yard can spot rioters by their ears
by Jack Grimston
Sunday Times, The, 20.11.2011, p12,13-12,13, 1; Language: EN
Section: News Edition: 01
http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/papers/Supers.pdf

EBSCOhost Accession number 7EH53940939

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/

It appears that this document has been made available through the Social Perception Lab at the Dept of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire in the United States. This lab has an interesting website, where one can find out about prosopagnosia and face recognition, along with even more obscure subjects such as a car memory test and the first documented case of developmental voice agnosia. The list of researchers working there and past associates includes some of the world’s most prominent researchers in face perception, and it is interesting to see some overlap with synaesthesia researchers. Lots of interesting-looking journal papers and book chapters can be accessed in PDF through their website.

Social Perception Lab http://www.faceblind.org/social_perception/index.html

Jack Grimston’s Sunday Times article about the super-recognizers in the Met was published a few months ago, so the info given in it might no longer be completely current, but I think it is still worth writing a brief summary with comments and questions about the piece:

The elite squad of super-recognizer police officers in London’s Metropolitan Police number around 20, out of a police force of 34,000, so super-recognizers are identified at a rate of 1 in 1,700 in this police force. Rare birds or under-recognized?

These super-recognizers have proven to be The Met’s most “effective weapons” at identifying faces in CCTV images of the English Riots of 2011, and computerised face-recognition technology has so far been of limited value.

The superrecognizers are ranked in a league table.

One example of a top performing team member is described. He has identified many faces of offenders in CCTV images as people he has seen from his police duty or from police databases.

This super-recognizer team is led by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville.

I can’t find any mention in the article of a date when the super-recognizers team was first established, but it does say that Neville was using super-recognizers long before the riots, with one officer showing a definite talent in 2009. This was the same year in which the first ever scientific paper about super-recognizers was published, launching the concept, and in 2009 there was also a lot of media coverage on the subject. It would be interesting to know whether Neville responded very promptly and innovatively to the work of researchers, or whether the use of super-recognizers in the Met developed independently.

One example of a top performing team member is described, and he has identified many faces of offenders in CCTV images as people he has seen from his police duty or from police databases.

This super-recognizer team is led by Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville.

He is seeking out more members for the team using testing.

Testing conducted within “The Met” to identify super-recognizers consists of giving an officer hundreds of images of suspects to look at in 45 minutes, then counting how many suspects the officer recognizes. It is not explained how these identifications are verified as true. I can only assume that an identification is judged as correct if it leads to or is verified by a conviction after the case has gone through the court system, but I do wish there was more explanation of the methodology behind the judgements made about who is a super-recognizer and what is a successful identification, especially in light of the fact that this is a police force, not a university or a psychological research institute. I would love to read a research paper about the super-recognizer team written by an academic from a scientific point of view.

All 20-odd members of the super-recogniser squad in “The Met” are male, which is curious because three of the four first-ever super-recognizers to be identified by psychology researchers are female (75% women). This could be the result of a gender bias resulting from the self-selecting method by which the study subject super-recognizers were identified (women are apparently more likely to volunteer as subjects of psychology studies than men). Nevertheless, we know that super-recognition is not an ability limited to males, so one has got to wonder why there are no females in the elite police team, assuming that women are adequately represented in this police force as a whole. Sexism? Lack of self-confidence in female police officers?

The super-recognizers have been studied by Dr Josh Davis from the University of Greenwich and a paper is in the works.

Dr Davis is of the opinion that being a super-recognizer is inborn more than learned, but is open to the idea that it might be possible to enhance the ability with training.

When one of the top performers in the team explained how he identifies faces from the CCTV images, he spoke of a quite conscious and deliberate process involving the consideration of individual features, not limited to facial features, requiring concentration. Although he mentioned his feelings of enthusiasm for the job, he didn’t mention emotion as a part of the recognition process. I think this seems quite different to the way regular people normally recognize faces – effortless and automatic and based on the whole face, with a feeling of familiarity as the marker for recognition. I also think it is quite different to the way that I typically recognize faces in everyday life and also under pressure while doing the timed CFMT, and I know that my face recognition ability is fairly elite, given my perfect score on the CFMT short form.

I’m interested in reading more about super-recognizers and their role in the workplace, and I’ve got my eye out for more news articles and research papers on these subjects.