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It’s something straight out of the 2002 film “Minority Report.” Police in the UK have officially made the country’s very first arrest using facial recognition technology.
The South Wales Police reportedly identified the suspect using a suite of intelligent cameras that can match a face to images stored in a separate database. That tech is called Automatic Facial Recognition (AFR), and police in the UK have been tailoring it for the last 18 months, Mashable reported. Police confirmed that the arrest was made, but didn’t share any other details — possibly because the investigation is still ongoing.
The arrest was made just days after the South Wales Police began a trial of the AFR tech at the Champions League final in Cardiff. During the test, police matched images captured at the soccer game against a database of roughly 500,000 images taken of suspects in custody, according to local publication The Telegraph. The arrest was apparently “of a local man unconnected to the Champions League,” a South Wales Police spokesperson said.
While this is the first arrest made by way of facial recognition, the technology has been used by law enforcement in the UK for a while. In 2015, for example, police in Leicestershire used facial recognition technology to scan the faces of some 90,000 attendees of Download Festival, Noisey reported. Similar systems are already in widespread use across the United States, too. According to a Georgetown University study published in October 2016, security researchers found that nearly half of American adults are already in a “law enforcement face recognition network.” Additionally, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is spearheading a program to incorporate similar tech as a routine part of airport security.
The rise of facial recognition technology is a controversial matter, and its potential use by both law enforcement and corporations have prompted concern by security and privacy advocates. Earlier this year, Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike slammed the FBI for its facial recognition program — citing concerns about unwarranted privacy invasions, arrest of innocent citizens and the potential for racial bias.