When face recognition loses its creepy edge
In what is becoming a familiar story, it’s emerged that police in the UK ran a secret face recognition scheme in a major shopping centre. The six-month programme at the Trafford Centre in Manchester caught just one criminal
– that’s about as ‘successful’ as other similar secret operations we’ve seen around the world lately.
Take the low success rate and add the 'creepy factor,’ and it’s no real surprise that police and landowners don’t disclose when they trial face recognition.
If you told someone 50 years ago just how many surveillance cameras would track an individual in many developed nations by the early 21st century, they’d be horrified. “It’s Orwellian!,” they’d cry. But now we walk around through city centres perfectly happily, forgetting how many times we’re being watched by staff in security control rooms as we go about our business.
Face recognition tech is only going to become more reliable, and consumer applications of face recognition – like some of the excellent montages Google Photos creates – will gradually soften the public’s spiky opinion of it.
Give it a couple of decades, and a few successful arrests, and what was once scary and intrusive may well just become another law enforcement tool that people grumble about but grudgingly accept as necessary. How much of a bad thing that is depends how healthy the rest of society is. At a time when autocracy is on the rise, there’s certainly reason for concern.