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UK Plans Facial Recognition Expansion, Empowering Cops To Scan Faces in the Street

If you’re tired of censorship and surveillance, join Reclaim The Net.

In the UK, the government has presented its plans for a large-scale increase of the use of facial recognition technology which the police want to deploy in a number of ways and across a range of locations.

According to Big Brother Watch, taxpayers in that country will foot the bill amounting to a total of £230 million (some $288 million). In return for financing this expansion of what the rights group calls Orwellian tech, citizens will be subjected to even more intense mass surveillance.

A government press release said £55.5 million would be spent on facial recognition tools over the next four years specifically to address the problem of retail crime (also euphemistically referred to as “shoplifting”). That’s a good place to “tuck in” that information, given that the public is likely to look favorably at any attempt to tackle the problem.

However, if “shoplifting” is a major reason behind them, the plans look like killing a fly with an elephant gun. There will be a convoy of live facial recognition vans – “mobile units” – in crowded areas of high streets and elsewhere in cities.

Related: How Neglected Rising Crime Levels Are Fueling the Push Towards a Cashless Surveillance State

This will work by surveilling everyone in a crowd in real time so that the police can compare images of those they are looking for hoping to find them among a mass of people.

“It is completely absurd to inflict mass surveillance on the general public under the premise of fighting theft,” commented Big Brother Watch Director Silkie Carlo, and added that at the same time, “police are failing to even turn up to 40% of violent shoplifting incidents or to properly investigate many more serious crimes.”

Carlo also made a point of these plans not having been up for a vote by neither the parliament nor the citizens, and called the scheme “an abysmal waste of public money on a dangerously authoritarian and inaccurate technology.”

Other than the convoy of vans equipped with live facial recognition, the government also hopes to use the same technology on fixed cameras installed at train stations, and an app for police officers to carry out facial recognition on anyone they choose to stop in the street.

The UK is known for mass use of CCTV cameras, with London being the most surveilled city in Europe, and unsurprisingly, facial recognition has been welcomed with great enthusiasm.

“The biggest breakthrough for crime detection since DNA” – that’s how Met Police Director of Intelligence Lindsey Chiswick is selling it to the public.

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