Privacy SOS

Cop car with built-in face recognition and predictive policing wins UK award

Photo credit: Syed Abdul Khaliq

Industry website Planet Biometrics informs us that a UK organization has created a police car with built-in face recognition and ‘predictive policing’ capabilities. 

A crime-busting Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, installed with leading edge technology, including facial recognition, has won a challenge from the UK Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to find a way of incorporating future technology into a police car.

The British-built Astra Sports Tourer features three computers and is armed with Facewatch forensics and facial-recognition software plus several high-quality cameras able to record activity around the vehicle. This CCTV footage can be streamed on-the-move and uploaded to Facewatch, an online crime database. Facewatch also provides instant feeds of crimes reported through the system as they happen, including moving CCTV footage and images of suspects.

The car is designed for the iPhone generation with witness of crime photography collected via 3G connectivity. The vehicle is also equipped with software that predicts future crime hotspots.

Techno-utopia or techno-dystopia? Your view on the 'crime busting' biometrics pre-crime cop car likely depends on how you view 21st century policing and justice matters more broadly.

One thing’s for sure, though: like with so many other revolutionary monitoring and identification tools, until or unless our lawmakers legislate clear privacy protections governing police use of biometrics, any public safety gains enabled by technologies like these will result in routine privacy violations of everyone with a face. 

Can we live with possible public safety advancement even if it necessitates privacy invasions? I think that's a bad deal.

If you do, too, and you want to stop your police department from acquiring the latest surveillance and identification gadgets absent a public process, or without good privacy protections, take action. Stopping the militarization of the police begins at home.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.