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No Right Turn: Against facial recognition

Written By: - Date published: 7:10 am, September 19th, 2019 - 21 comments
Categories: police, surveillance - Tags: , ,

Last month Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn wrote:

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

Yesterday, we learned that Auckland Transport wanted to turn Auckland into a surveillance state, with an extra 8,000 cameras equipped with facial recognition technology. Today, we learned that the police want to use those cameras:

The new cameras are capable of facial recognition but Auckland Transport (AT) said this function was not used.

However, police are interested in it.

“Police does not currently have the ability to run facial recognition off live CCTV cameras,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

“However, we would always be open to using new and developing technologies in the future, balanced against relevant legislation.”

Or, to put it another way: they’re open to engaging in mass-surveillance and spying on innocent members of the public going about their daily business, in the hope of catching a few criminals. Except that its a forlorn hope, because facial recognition has false positive rates between 81% and 96%. Meaning that if they try and make an arrest based on a “match”, they’ll be harassing an innocent person four times out of five, or 24 times out of 25. Which may work fine in a police state like China, but imagine what it does to the police’s social licence in New Zealand.

Using facial recognition cameras is mass surveillance. Instead of encouraging Auckland Transport, we should be outlawing this intrusive technology and the tracking it enables and entails.

21 comments on “No Right Turn: Against facial recognition ”

  1. Lucy 1

    Facial recognition is so flawed that I will never get an iPhone with it as you risk being locked out of your own phone. Have you ever gone through the airport and failed the new passport control and needed intervention from staff? I have almost every time I fly! It is also modelled on Anglo Saxon faces (as most developers involved in this technology are) and has a tough time recognizing different facial types. In IT they tend to overpromise and massively under deliver – if I were the police I would remember INCIS and their latest over run project and stop expecting technology to do their job.

  2. greywarshark 2

    IT machines replacing human work and running us – surveilling us run by quasi-government agencies who have all the power of government beyond the ability of elected politicians to control them. The USA swop around when they have elections. I think some permanence is required but less than the present powers in the agencies like the police and these new ones that smart ACT and their revolutionary yellow coats set up.

    It's time for another wave of Luddites.
    https://www.history.com/news/who-were-the-luddites

    Were they successful – no. But what else besides a debased existence?

    The British Government sent in the troops to control the Luddites. The Government followed it up with the Frame Breaking Act of 1812 which made the breaking of machines a capital felony. … The harsh punishments meted out did stop the Luddite protests, in all between 60 and 70 people were executed.
    https://www.intriguing-history.com/the-luddites/

  3. Pat 3

    I suspect the complete apathy expressed re surveillance indicates we will end up having to try and have it removed after the event…and that will be almost impossible

  4. As a former SysProg (in what is now a millenium ago in terms of current attention spans and spatial awareness, but who was once involved in NZ's first ATMS/EFTPOS and even bloody Videotex) I've long agreed with what one of my 'ten pound Pom' bosses used to say: Humans should drive technology based on their needs, rather than technology driving Humans.

    We seem to be indulging in technological 'solutions' these days just because we can.

    It was probably inevitable I 'spose, but just having come from the bloody supermarket where an automated checkout could not possibly accommodate the human mind (such as using a single bag accommodating multiple vegetable items – all correctly having multiple barcodes matching them all), the only response could have been "Please SHUT your fucking face" in response to "unexpected iten in the bagging aread" then "please take your items".

    Never!!!! again. Hal goes haywire

    • greywarshark 4.1

      Edit
      Employ a human – go to checkout, if humanly possible. The theme of the moment the song line 'Take me up where I belong' and devil take the hindmost at the grassroots. We are wonderful animals, and if we were always aware of that, we would wonder at it, rejoice to be alive and get on with being as close to nature as modern likes would enable us to do.

      But we are machine-oriented and are (have been) psychologically fixed and only using half our brain, and the financials are into selling us new machines every two years, to keep them in socks and chairs. Alex the cartoon man is the barometer for today, Peattie and Taylor the creators of the little twister and his mates. So easy to be a puppet in the system, and keeping him in the style he is adept at. Peattie and Taylor are indefatigable (whew).

      And think John Christopher, humans and machines and their interaction were often the details of his novels – The Triads, The Prince in Waiting trio.

      PS FOMO Fear of missing out. Which in big tech corporates is a real problem. Be at the top with your new innovation for a few years, and be out in another two years with stock doownn! The growth thing is like a toxic fungus that grows on its host, encircles it and strangles it. It’s a bit uncomfortable for sentient beings, and also a disaster for the Ents as in LOR. The dinosaurs will fight each other to the bitter end; and their giant paws and claws decimate us. And unfortunately with private enterprise? (monopoly or cartel) at the helm, and driving governments (NZ Inc) where does the pause for thought and change of direction start. They exhale, and start a cyclone.

    • Incognito 4.2

      We seem to be indulging in technological 'solutions' these days just because we can.

      Nah, it is the unhealthy alliance between FOMO and greedy CEOs and shareholders that is driving this relentless commercial life & death race for the consumers’ dollar and industry hegemony. Mostly, IMHO.

    • lprent 4.3

      Facial recognition, along with voice recognition seems to me to be a technology with all of the characteristics of building fusion power plants, a technology that is always 20 years off for general use.

      You can get it to work in constrained circumstances like a entrance point. But, in public areas, the elimination of the 95% of the people that a target cannot be is about as good as it gets. Good enough to get a human to track a smaller set of possibilities. Like fusion you just can’t get it up 100%. In the case of fusion – getting out more power than you put in for more than a few seconds. In the case of facial recognition – not being able to take humans out of the loop.

      In both cases that makes it pretty useless technologies and little more than a toy.

      Voice recognition is a bit further along. But that started getting vaguely useful (like video is now) back in the 1980s under some constrained circumstances – voice writing. And it is still very constrained. Works best in uncrowded spaces that aren’t particularly noisy like living rooms or when the mic is right next to the mouth – like a cellphone.

      Both of video and audio recognition (and stable fusion power) rely on copious backup processing power to build the shortcuts. But humans outperform even that and are still required throughout the loop for things that they do well and naturally and machines really suck at doing in real time. And we’re steadily slowing on the curve for new raw computing power and plateauing out. Now is the time of having to get the algorithms finessed and learning to do things like getting multiple cores working together.

      None of them are technologies that can be relied on outside of very constrained circumstances for real world application. But they are good at getting suckers to buy unusable systems.

    • Dukeofurl 4.4

      " "unexpected item in the bagging area" …

      Its just a weight check.. each item has to match is barcode 'weight' . The scales are very sensitive

      Vegetables and meat are more likely to have slight mismatches as they are supposed to account for the weight of the packaging.

      The automated checkout has added up all the weight of the items and compared it to the weights read from the barcodes. If its outside the tolerances you get the audible warning but of course it doesnt say that just a more generic 'unexpected item'

      I use a non standard bag which is much bigger and even a little shift in location on the bagging area gets the same message

      • OnceWasTim 4.4.1

        "Its just a weight check.. each item has to match is barcode 'weight' . The scales are very sensitive"

        Actually it was a bit more than that @ Duke. The thing was so slow, it locked up completely after the customer following me and, like the one next to it, was placed out of service. These things are often running on back level MS software.

        The answer for me is to use a human when possible, and better still avoid supermarkets altogether where possible in favour of smaller businesses.

        In this instance, there were two actual human checkout operators only each with long queues.

        • Dukeofurl 4.4.1.1

          Thats true enough. I have to raise my hand like schoolboy in class at least once a shop and sometimes 3 or 4 times to get the attention of the supervisor. Of course the very bossy tone of the messages doesnt help

    • Rosemary McDonald 4.5

      Poor Hal.

      Human Overlords embedded a deceit programme. (Don't let the human crew members know the real purpose of the missionwinkwink)

      Hal's head done in maintaining a lie to the human crew he was also programmed to 'bond' with.

      Just reading the book of the film. A salutary tale.

  5. Tiger Mountain 5

    There are various ways according to some, er, twitchy, online sources, to subvert facial recognition devices–camera detectors, make up, reflective elements on face/glasses, hats, balalacavas, hair styles, partial realistic prosthetic masks, NIR LEDs attached to glasses and clothing…

    As lprent says, what is the real world capability of facial recognition software? I still do not like one little bit though the idea of the likes of Auckland Transport equipping intersections with cameras to record images of drivers and front seat passengers.

  6. David Mac 7

    Facial recognition software will improve. There is money in doing so. I don't think we should be kicking it to the kerb because it's not accurate we should be giving it a wide swerve because it sucks.

    I'm surprised that China are rolling it out, surely it's much easier to insert a chip beneath the skin of newborns. My dog has got one. Nobody need see the chip readers all round town. Passport visas could hold one. Overstayers red flagged the minute they are overstaying.

    Geeez, there's big brother, then there's a co-joined big brother. No thanks.

  7. David Mac 8

    I can see them but the merits are swamped by drawbacks

  8. peterlepaysan 9

    Technology, AI, robotics etc are the dream toys of very greedy, very stupid people.

    Not stupid, not greedy people need to control this very childish behaviour.

    Is Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley aware of this?

  9. Agora 10

    Yep, 100% probability.

  10. Dukeofurl 11

    Then there is this

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7481357/Passport-photo-checker-falsely-flags-black-man-s-lips-open-mouth.html

    It seems facial recognition was used to check the submitted photo met the requirements and couldnt even tell closed lips on a black man were meeting the standard
    “Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, believes lack of diversity in the workplace and an unrepresentative sample of black people is one of the reasons why the error may have happened.”

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