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Germany Tests Facial-Recognition Surveillance On 300 Citizens

An anonymous reader quotes DW:
Earlier this year, with no shortage of publicity, Berlin police found volunteers to participate in a test of a prototype facial-recognition system at Sudkreuz station. The system seeks to match images of people on CCTV cameras with pictures of the volunteers in a test database. Volunteers also wear transponders providing information about their whereabouts. Comparing the two sets of data will give a good indication of whether the technology is of any use.
Another DW article reports the six-month test is attracting criticism:
Germany’s interior minister is pleased with the initial results, but critics are wary of increased surveillance… The 300 testers who volunteered for the project carry a transponder that apparently only transmits data on ambient temperature, battery status and signal strength, according to the project staff member in the Sudkreuz station control room who explained the technology to [German Interior Minister Thomas] de Maiziere. But [activist Paul] Gerstenkorn contends the angle and acceleration of the testers are recorded as well… For German Data Protection Commissioner Andrea Vosshoff, the fact that active and not passive technology is being used is going too far. Unlike a passive chip, the transponder constantly transmits information that anyone can collect with the help of freeware available on the internet.
Vosshoff says the police have not “sufficiently” informed the testers, and called for the project to be temporarily halted…The interior minister has vehemently defended the project, saying the technology is not being used to catch petty criminals such as shoplifters, but terrorists and serious offenders. Four weeks into the test phase, De Maiziere has praised its “surprising accuracy” – specifically referring to people recognized by the software whose pictures are already stored in police databases. According to Germany’s federal police force, pictures of all other passers-by captured by the surveillance cameras are “immediately deleted.” After the six-month trial phase in Berlin, a decision will be made on whether automatic facial recognition will be implemented nationwide in Germany’s train stations and other public spaces.


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