UK shops exam ‘thief recognition’ tech

Media captionFacewatch can recognize suspects as they enter a store

A intrigue widely used by UK stores to brand criminals is contrast facial approval technology, a BBC has learned.

Until now, Facewatch has supposing internal groups of businesses with a approach to share their CCTV images of shoplifters and other intensity offenders.

It is now giving shops a ability to beget alerts if a face approval complement matches people in a common cinema to business in their stores, as a BBC PM programme’s Chris Vallance reports.

As we deplane a stairs into a booze bar he runs, Simon Gordon tells me how he thinks record can assistance tackle High Street crime.

As good as regulating a bar, Simon is a owner of Facewatch, a complement that helps businesses locally emanate and share watch lists – for example, cinema of shoplifters or famous bag thieves.

The scheme, that has some-more than 10,000 premises registered, also helps businesses fast upload camera footage to a police. The 13th military force has usually “come on board”, Simon tells me.

At present, spotting a indeterminate patron on a watch list relies on observant staff, though Facewatch, Simon says, is now contrast regulating face-recognition camera systems.

Bane of bag thieves

Simon is demonstrating a face-recognition complement in an bureau subsequent to his bar.

The complement happily finds a faces of everybody who passes, though a tiny white box jitters around my face.

“You’re invisible,” Simon says. we start introspective a crime spree.

Image caption

The record recognized faces simply – if they weren’t wearing spectacles

We after learn my thick-rimmed eyeglasses are a problem. It’s something simply bound by adjusting a complement settings, Simon tells me.

In a past, a complement has stable a booze bar from bag thieves. Now a thieves are gone, and it’s usually installed with representation images used to denote face-recognition technology.

Simon’s aspiration is to capacitate Facewatch to confederate with all a vital face-recognition camera systems.

“What we can do now is couple your face-recognition complement to Facewatch and it will lift down a watch list that’s applicable for your premises and your group,” he says.

“Then, if someone walks into your premises, it will send we an alert.”

Tests are already underneath approach in a tiny series of shops. Most usually use representation images taken from business employees.

“It’s live in exam sites, though it’s not in widespread operation yet,” Simon says.

Minority report

Simon thinks face approval could assistance hinder crime before it happens. “I know that sounds a bit like Minority Report though it is possible,” he says.

A pre-emptive “Can we assistance we sir?” competence hinder a crime, though Renata Samson, of a remoteness discuss organisation Big Brother Watch, is wary.

“The thought that pre-crime can be stopped is a worry, aren’t we all trusting until proven guilty?” she says.

Image copyright

Image caption

The facial approval tech could detect when famous thieves entered a bar

I ask Simon if there is a risk of “blacklisting”.

“The people who are on a list are not guilty until they’ve been prosecuted and taken to court, and a complement creates that really clear”, Simon says – and underneath a Data Protection Act “if anyone misuses that information there are really poignant fines”.

Simon is also sanguinary about a risk of misidentification. Images from a watch list will be sent with alerts so staff can check that there’s a good match, he says.

Download test

It’s not usually High Street businesses contrast face-recognition camera systems.

At a Download song festival in Donington Park, Leicestershire, military used cameras connected to NEC’s NeoFace complement to indicate song fans entering a locus to see if their faces matched a specifically combined database of criminals famous to aim festivals.

It sparked discuss and an indignant on-stage criticism from a rope Muse, who indicted military of “scanning a faces though revelation us”.

But Simon Cole, Leicestershire’s Chief Constable, says a annoy was formed on a misunderstanding.

“Afterwards, there was lots of sound that we were storing images of people and we had 75,000 images… it usually isn’t how it works,” he says.

Face-recognition camera systems should be used by police, he tells me.

“The technology’s here, and we need to consider about what is a proportional response that respects people’s privacy,” he says.

Go selling in Leicester, he says, and you’ll be filmed by any series of CCTV cameras.

“If that checks that I’m a pretty law abiding citizen, that doesn’t worry me,” he says.

Database warning

Tony Porter, a notice camera commissioner, says a wider discuss is needed.

Image caption

Police army already use face approval technology

He tells me: “The open need to ask themselves: do they wish 6 million cameras embellished red during conduct tallness looking during them?

“But good record that is sited in a right plcae and is used by a military and agencies effectively is a good thing.”

Police army are already regulating face-recognition to brand people, most as they competence with DNA or fingerprints.

A inhabitant military database contains adult to 18 million “custody suite” photos – hundreds of thousands could be of trusting people.

The biometrics commissioner Alastair MacGregor has warned that picture databases and face approval could be used to lane people’s movements by “combining widespread CCTV and entrance to a outrageous searchable database of CCTV images”.


Some army are also training that learned humans can outperform computers in analysing pictures.

“Super-recognisers” – humans with a talent for spotting faces – conduct “200 idents a week”, Det Ch Insp Mick Neville, of a Metropolitan Police, tells me in an email.

But a mechanism manages usually one a week “due to a quality, angle and lighting of CCTV images”.

Facewatch’s Simon Gordon knows about a work, though says computers will be some-more useful in live settings; a bar could frequency compensate a super-recogniser to lay by a doorway all day. And tellurian smarts aren’t exponentially augmenting in power.

Simon says a cost of systems is descending as their efficacy increases, and face-detection cameras could shortly be within each business’s reach.

“Probably by a finish of subsequent year, it will be roughly like carrying a mobile phone,” he says.