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HOME  > Past issues  > 2020 October 7 - 13  > Introduction of face recognition system by police raises privacy concerns
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2020 October 7 - 13 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Introduction of face recognition system by police raises privacy concerns

October 11, 2020

A new computer system which was introduced in March enables police officers to compare face images from surveillance videos and social media with the National Police Agency’s arrest database, Japanese Communist Party Dietmember Fujino Yasufumi revealed.

Commenting on the revelation, Lawyer Muto Tadaaki, who is knowledgeable about the ongoing surveillance controversy, said that the introduction of the face identifying system runs counter to the global trend for more privacy protection and this is very alarming.

According to materials which Fujino obtained from the NPA, with the use of the new system, police officers can easily check face images from surveillance cameras near crime scenes against photos in the NPB database of persons with arrest records. Photos from social media can also be checked in order to identify, for example, people appearing in a picture with a crime victim.

It costed 99 million yen to develop the system with 29 million yen going to the Japanese electronics giant NEC. In addition, the company is responsible for maintenance of the system at a cost of seven million yen.

In the U.K., the Court of Appeals in London in August ruled that the police use of a face recognition system is illegal on the grounds that regulations on where the system can be used and who can be scanned are insufficient. The Metropolitan Police Service’s face recognition system was provided by NEC.

Explaining how the newly-introduced system in Japan could intrude into people’s privacy, Lawyer Muto pointed out that once a person is arrested and his/her photo is entered into the arrest database, his/her face image will be compared for the rest of his/her life every time a police officer makes an inquiry to the database. He went on to say that even persons without an arrest history can be recorded on surveillance video and the images of their faces will be checked against the arrest database without their knowledge.

Muto said that the global trend is toward tighter restrictions on the use of face recognition systems. The EU bans the use of face recognition data even in the private sector. In the U.S., such data were widely used and the four major tech companies, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple made huge profits with it, but they now have to exercise self-restraint because of human rights concerns. U.S. police enforcements stopped using face recognition systems after a string of mistaken arrests of African Americans.

Muto said, “Only Japan disregards the growing global demand for more privacy protection. This is very alarming.”

Past related article:
> Unregulated surveillance cameras increasing [May 31, 2013]

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