Tag Archives: Surveillance

How capable is the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability?

Reporter: Margot O’Neill

It’s been described by the Government as its ‘latest security weapon’, but is the National Facial Biometric Matching Capability open to misuse? Lateline. ABC. September 9th 2015.

http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2015/s4309519.htm

It sounds like we are doing everything except using super-recognizers in Australia, which seems different to the approach used by police in the UK. Based on what I’ve read, I’m skeptical about the accuracy of this sort of technology.

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.”