‘Your face will be your fortune!’ The words of encouragement to thousands of wannabe actors as they head to Los Angeles seeking fame and fortune.
Not if you shop in Westfield, it won’t. In fact it’s far more likely to get you arrested. The latest Deep State invasion of our dwindling privacy comes in the form of facial recognition cameras. And yes, PC Plod is willingly embracing the new technology in his goal to have every UK citizen ‘on file’. The second you emerge from the womb you are a potential criminal, terrorist or drug dealer. Best to have your unique ID in the national database so we can wheel you in when the inevitable happens.
If you’re one of the millions following the blockbuster Bodyguard series, you’ll know it’s all about an aggressive Home Secretary’s determination to pass the RIPA act. I think it stands for Royal Invasion of Privacy Act, allowing the government to spy on all our emails, mouse clicks and phone calls without needing any suspicion of wrongdoing or any judicial authorisation. The only factual error in the programme is that the politician is not called Theresa…
Obviously, tracking us through the digital world is not enough for any self-respecting totalitarian state, so the next step is to keep our image on file so we can be placed at the scene of whatever heinous crime we commit. Like going to a music festival or a Premier League football match. Remember to smile and show your best side when the uniformed cameraman approaches you.
It’s called Automated Facial Recognition (AFR) and it scans every person within range of the camera and makes unique digital maps of their facial characteristics. The South Wales Police have admitted that they are already creating ‘Watch Files’ from people’s social media pages – I’ve been telling you for years this stuff is a lethal hostage to fortune – then matching the faces they capture with AFR against these completely illegal watch lists. Nice.
Let’s be clear about the extent of this invasion without consent. Facial recognition is sold as a security feature on a Dumb Phone, meaning that no one else can open up your handset with all the personal material you store there. It’s the equivalent of your fingerprints or your DNA, and the police are indiscriminately harvesting it without asking or telling you.
Normally, this kind of biometric data is only captured if you’ve been arrested on suspicion of committing an offence. Lord knows it’s hard enough to get your DNA removed from the records, even if the boys in blue have ‘done a Cliff’ and arrested you on completely false pretences. Now, AFR means you can be just a face in the crowd in the wrong place at the wrong time and you’ll end up on the same database as the modern day Charlie Kray and Ronnie Biggs of this world.
No law covers police use of facial recognition technology. There is no guidance on how to use it. There is no independent oversight of what is being done and whether our right to privacy is being protected. You might want to read those sentences again. Yes, in 2018 Britain the police can capture your facial data and store it in illegal watch lists with total impunity.
If the intent is bad enough, the innate inaccuracy of the technology is truly frightening. The Met’s figures show that the technology is wrong 98% of the time! South Wales police are slightly less inept with 92% mis-identifications. So your chances of being arrested for a crime committed by someone else would appear to be north of 90% no matter which police force’s patch you are on.
Of course, one impact of AFR will be to discourage people from attending high profile peaceful protests such as happened during President Trump’s visit. Add in a bit of kettling and the masses will soon be forced into submission to the Deep State agenda.
How can you tell if AFR is in use? You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled, as usually there’ll only be a small sign on the Police van saying ‘facial recognition fitted’ or, as in Westfield, a couple of small posters carefully positioned below most people’s sight line. Liberty observed one such trial of the technology at Westfield and found that police ignored procedures to check the accuracy of the match before stopping people to ask for ID. It was so clearly a mis-match that the bobbies were forced to admit that ‘it’s not a fool proof system’.
Yet another sign that the water in the pan is reaching boiling point while we sleep-walk into a police state. As you read this, I will have already passed through the facial recognition system with my electronic passport and be on my way to Singapore to speak at our own event on Thursday and at Emergence Singapore on Friday, where the hottest new tech companies will be looking for investors. The good news is the same companies are coming to London on 5th October and we have 50 free tickets to give away! Get the details here.
Elsewhere on this page you can see the new ‘AFR me’ – assuming I don’t get arrested when this is published, we’ll talk again soon.