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Cops' use of biometric images 'gone far beyond custody purposes'

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..19 million is an underestimate.

The UK population is around 63 million. So at least a third of the UK population are on the Police National Computer.

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Anonymous Coward

Perhaps

there are 19 million images of one person?

The point is that unless someone has checked and tagged all the images with a correct identity then the unique image count may be less than 19 million.

Just Saying

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Re: Perhaps

On the other hand, being on a police database is rapidly becoming evidence of innocence

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Anonymous Coward

I don't remember the Police arresting 19 million people in the UK.

The questions that have to be asked (preferably in Parliament) is "Where did they get all this data from and what was the orginal stated scope of the purpose at the time of collection of the original source of that data ? ".

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Passports and driving licences ?

A responsibility of the data protection registrar was to prevent arbitrary sharing of data, but the government scrapped that years ago.

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I don't remember the Police arresting 19 million people in the UK.

This also caught my eye, given we are lead to believe the photos held are only of those people who were arrested, we do need to know how this number was arrived at. I assume it is the cumulative total number of arrests and thus custody photos taken over n years (seems the police have been arresting a little over 1M people a year in recent years: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-powers-and-procedures-england-and-wales-year-ending-31-march-2015/police-powers-and-procedures-england-and-wales-year-ending-31-march-2015 ). Hence some individuals may have several photos on the database.

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I don't know if it actually happens and how often, but in Ben Aaronovitch's novels about London policeman PC Grant - special skill, he's a wizard - they routinely look up someone's driving licence photograph, on home visits they phone-photograph any personal pictures you leave on display... PC Grant describes this as "cheating" but only because he can do it and I can't. It may also help that he is effectively boss of the Magical Crimes Unit afar as computer access goes because the actual boss is Merlin's great-grandson and doesn't know how to work the things, either HOLMES or Watson.

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Napolionic

"automatic deletion on proof of innocence."

Great, lets get right on proving that we are not criminals.

How about a campaign for automatic deletion unless proof of a conviction is provided..?

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Re: Napolionic

What has a conviction got to do with it?

Let's say you get done for drink-driving. You serve a 12 month ban and pay a fine. Why should your picture remain for ever more on the police national database, just so that they can match it up with the millions of faces that are captured daily on the millions of CCTV cameras installed in this country (because *that* is the true end-goal.)?

Why should that be?

You are either free, or you are not.

To be surveyed and tracked on the off-chance that you might do something wrong in the future, is to not be free.

And that's where we're heading.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Napolionic

"How about a campaign for automatic deletion unless proof of a conviction is provided..?"

At one time in the UK, anyone having their fingerprints taken in order to eliminate them from criminal enquiries (think fingerprints found at the scene of a crime), was assured that all fingerprints from innocent parties would be destroyed.

The police would even ask participants if they wanted to be present to witness their destruction.

What happened to that practice?

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Re: Napolionic

"What has a conviction got to do with it?"

Get convicted and you are a proven criminal. Thus your photo is retained on the criminal database.

You may or may not think this is reasonable or that some form of time limit should be applied.

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Re: Napolionic

> You are either free, or you are not.

You're not. Was that a question? Welcome to the surveillance age.

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Re: Napolionic

"The police would even ask participants if they wanted to be present to witness their destruction.

What happened to that practice?"

They got computers.

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Unhappy

Re: Napolionic

"To be surveyed and tracked on the off-chance that you might do something wrong in the future, is to not be free.

And that's where we're heading."

Too late, we're there already. ANPR, the highest number of CCTV cameras per capita anywhere in the world, we've a lot of to be proud of in the UK, NOT!

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Re: Napolionic

"To be surveyed and tracked on the off-chance that you might do something wrong in the future, is to not be free."

How about they dont "survey" or "track" you , but when you end up robbing a bank and the bank says "we got a picture" , The police dont have to say , yeah we deleted him off the database so cant help you there

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Re: Napolionic

Why should your picture remain for ever more on the police national database, just so that they can match it up with the millions of faces that are captured daily on the millions of CCTV cameras installed in this country (because *that* is the true end-goal.)?

Well, we have to fund the police somehow... So the long-term goal is to be in the location data collection business ahead of the private sector, then Facebook et al will pay the police for access to their data gathering network...

Mind you thinking about what Facebook already know about you ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39947942 ), perhaps the Police are already in discussions - why take the rap for doing something when people have already given Facebook permission to do that and more...

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Re: Napolionic

>You are either free, or you are not.

You are free. However you still have a criminal record. On that record is your photo. Don't like them having that? Don't be a criminal.

This is, of course, somewhat different from being surveyed and tracked..

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Re: Napoleonic

"You are either free, or you are not."

"To be surveyed and tracked on the off-chance that you might do something wrong in the future, is to not be free."

That's obvious, yes. What's also obvious is that:

a) The RIPA act has given you due notice of future policy direction, and b) Your continued residence in the UK is tacit approval of said policy.

I talked about much of this stuff with family, British friends, colleagues etc, long before I left the UK in 2004. The general consensus was that a) I was making a fuss, b) things would never turn out as badly as I expected, and c) I should be more up-to-date on celebrity affairs.

In other words, I should not care.

I came to the conclusion that most Brits are not prepared to stand vigil to ensure their freedoms are protected, or fight for them, because they simply don't care. Most Brits alive today don't actually value their own freedom, because they never had to sacrifice anything for it. When a thing is given to you for free, how much value would you place on it?

Oh, sure, they'll pay for a poppy on Remembrance Day, and enjoy the opportunity for a little virtue signalling. But most will not consider how things actually lead to a world war, which cost so many lives, or make an effort to prevent those things from happening again. I would go so far to say that freedom is never truly bought - it is only rented, and the price paid is inversely proportional to how much you care about it.

Most people underestimate how quickly things can can deteriorate into totalitarianism, and history (and my family's experience) bear this out. Britain is a democracy, at least on the surface, and the majority of its voters do not care (or, more crucially, do not care enough) about their freedom, which is why abuse of facial data will continue unchallenged.

My advice would be to seek out, and join, a more vigilant demographic.

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Re: Napoleonic

"You are free. However you still have a criminal record. On that record is your photo. Don't like them having that? Don't be a criminal."

One does not have to be a criminal to have a photo in the police system. Applying for a police clearance is another way to do it.

By your logic, should we be abolishing police clearances?

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Re: Napolionic

Heading? We are there and far past that point.

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The person ultimately responsible for policing is the Home Sec. This would have been the Home Sec at the time of the original commissioner's report. She and her successor should be held responsible for her continued failure to take suitable action.

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"person ultimately responsible for policing is the Home Sec"

Being annoyingly pedantic the person responsible for most, but not all, policing is the Home Sec.

CNC report to the Energy [...] Secretary, BTP to the Transport Secretary, MOD plod to the Defense Secretary and the Cambridge University Police and the various ports Police are private.

No idea who SOCA report too, probably only God and then reluctantly.

Individual constables being answerable only to the Queen is, unfortunately, a theoretical fantasy.

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"Being annoyingly pedantic the person responsible for most, but not all, policing is the Home Sec."

And being even more annoyingly pedantic the Home Sec of that time is now the boss of all the others. So there!

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OTOH this may be a good thing ...

The more records there are in the database, the greater the chance of a false positive. Facial recognition technology is so poor that the probability of several false positives is extremely high. Every false positive requires man-hours of work to chase up, and eventually will result in the police not bothering to use the technology at all because it wastes too much time.

It would be interesting to do as was once done with the DNA database and see how many matches are flagged within the database itself (compare every image to all other images in the database). IIRC that resulted in several DNA matches of people who were very obviously different individuals (a fact quietly swept under the carpet when prosecution barristers trot out their "Millions to one" assurance that a DNA match is infallible).

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Unhappy

OTOH..may be a good thing ...more records..in the database,--> greater..chance of a false positive

You're quite behind the times aren't you?

The Notting Hill Carnival "exercise" and subsequent false arrest have already done this.

But the Met still think it's a result.

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Re: --> greater..chance of a false positive

That's why the police need additonal pieces of corroborating evidence

You need to have been facial recognised AND be irish black muslim

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Anonymous Coward

Re: OTOH this may be a good thing ...

'Every false positive requires man-hours of work to chase up, and eventually will result in the police not bothering to use the technology at all because it wastes too much time' I rear it will be the other way round where they rely simply on this alone with little other supporting evidence like they do with DNA: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19412819

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Re: OTOH this may be a good thing ...

"Every false positive requires man-hours of work to chase up"

What? how? surely you look at 2 pictures and, as a human, give a yes and a no . You could do 1000 in an hour.

Not having a picture match hoewever , because you deleted the database results in 1 picture of an unknown person and the question "who the F is that ?" I put it to you that that will take a lot more man hours to figure out than if 2 pictures are the same person

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FAIL

Re: OTOH this may be a good thing ...

"Every false positive requires man-hours of work to chase up"

... but not by the coppers. The court can sort that out when the id'd perp comes to trial. Oh, sorry, no legal aid.

Convicted, clear up rate improved. Trebles all round!

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Re: OTOH this may be a good thing ...

Id like to think that the police dont use the equivalent of google's "I feel lucky" button (which no one has ever used ever) and actually look at the reults and select the correct / most likley one

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Re: OTOH this may be a good thing ...

Probably too late for you to notice this reply but if you do see it, I would dearly love to see evidence of that result (multiple collisions when entries compared to each other) . Not challenging your veracity. In fact I really hope it's true and there is some published evidence to support it. Would just love to be able to use that argument and wave it in certain faces...

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Re: OTOH this may be a good thing ...

"

Probably too late for you to notice this reply but if you do see it, I would dearly love to see evidence of that result (multiple collisions when entries compared to each other) .

"

http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/research/JLPP/upload/kaye.pdf

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527424-700-unreliable-evidence-time-to-open-up-dna-databases/

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Anonymous Coward

unless retention is necessary for a policing purpose

there, problem sorted. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING can be deemed "necessary for a policing purpose" :(

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Re: unless retention is necessary for a policing purpose

Exactly my thinking, that phrase leaves a bloody great door open for the ingress and egress of abuse.

I still have a feeling that another bout of ID card foisting M/may be around the corner, the fuzz are just making an early start on collecting the photos so thay can cross check if you are still the same person you were before.

They probably don't care or don't want to understand about false positives.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: unless retention is necessary for a policing purpose

I guess you civil libertarian whack jobs are against all forms of law and order then?

Ever thought why we have number plates on cars?

do you know they are all stored on a database?

whats you're thoughts on that?

Every sinlge car that is - not just the cars that got arrested one time ...

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Re: unless retention is necessary for a policing purpose

"Ever thought why we have number plates on cars?"

Yes..... revenue.

Prevention of crime is a very, very distant secondary use.

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Re: unless retention is necessary for a policing purpose

Yes..... revenue.

Ah! a "crime" creation system...

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Gimp

"Minister of State..Baroness Williams, a presumption..unconvicted individuals be deleted"

I think most people would presume that's exactly what happens.

Except it's not happening is it, Baroness Williams?

Perhaps because the Home Office does not require it to be so?

Why exactly is that?

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Anonymous Coward

So when do Apple have to delete all the iPhone X face images?

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Face unlock with Android, Windows 10 in general, the image cache on any digital camera...

Governments are a little late on the bandwagon.

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In all of those cases it's a local cache, not held by any corporation.

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>In all of those cases it's a local cache, not held by any corporation.

But surely it will use Face Id to give me access to my iCloud account from any device with a camera?

However, even if Apple did collect the Face Id data, they will claim the user agreed to their data being held by Apple and processed in any dubious offshore facility chosen by Apple - remember Bruce Sterling's "Islands in the Net".

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There Might Be Grounds?

Everybody wants to wear prosthetic foreheads on their real heads...

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Re: There Might Be Grounds?

Well done! Excellent music reference.

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Holmes

However, concerns have previously been raised that the automatic deletion of images of unconvicted individuals would be too costly, due to the complexity of police IT systems.

In which case all the databases should be deleted, and no new photos can be taken of anyone by the police, until new databases/processes are put into place that can automatically delete un-convicted individuals.

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However, concerns have previously been raised that the automatic deletion of images of unconvicted individuals would be too costly, due to the complexity of police IT systems.

Well that's clearly a bollocks excuse - They're quite prepared to demand maths be rewritten to match what they want when they ant breakable unbreakable encryption, or the entire countries http requests be saved and made searchable. but the Police IT is too complex to clear out the records of the unconvicted every so often....???

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DELETE * FROM Customers

WHERE convicted = 0

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>Well that's clearly a bollocks excuse...

Does your company's CRM system automatically clear out records of dead people, ex-customers etc.?

Just asking as there are many enterprise computer systems written without consideration of record deletion. Not saying the Police are right or wrong, just stating a simple fact...

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Another slightly myopic article

The guy who was arrested and de-arrested was down to a mix up over warrants, so the facial recognition presumably did its job correctly, at least that's how I read it from the linked article at the bottom.

And it's all very well saying there were 35 false positives resulting 5 unnecessary stops, but there's no mention of any successful ones. If that's because there weren't any, then privacy issues aside this thing is a massive waste of resources. In any case, before getting all uppity, we'd need to compare this to "off-line" facial recognition, as in, officers simply recognising (or thinking they recognise) someone and then either detaining them or comparing them to a photograph and detaining them. It happens all the time, and it's not always the right person. Or sometimes it is and they have very convincing fake ID!

Which isn't to say them holding 19 million images without adequately explaining in themselves isn't a concern, of course.

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Re: Another slightly myopic article

The 1 true positive is mentioned - its the guy who was arrested but shouldn't have been. According to the original blog post this was the only example the police gave of 'success'

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