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Chapter 8. DO THE WALLS HAVE EARS? OTHER... > We Can Pick You Out in a Crowd of St...

We Can Pick You Out in a Crowd of Strangers

Can you really get lost in a crowd anymore? You'd like to think so, but the combination of technology that can scan and identify faces and cameras that can focus on single faces in crowds is changing that assumption quickly. The Florida town in the earlier story example is not the only place where this is happening. This year's Super Bowl XXV (called the 'Snooper Bowl' in media reports), was one of the first American examples of massive scanning of faces in a crowd to look for known criminals and terrorists. Law enforcement officials captured the images of everyone who attended the game in Raymond James Stadium. They then compared the captured images with a database of criminals' faces. Civil liberties experts say that this massive example of video surveillance coupled with facial recognition technology was an invasive waste. The system was designed to discover terrorists and other criminals, but only a few pickpockets and ticket scalpers got caught.

In the East London borough of Newham, a surveillance network of more than 200 cameras have been keeping watch over this small town for more than two years by scanning pedestrians and passersby. It employs a facial-recognition system that alerts local authorities if it recognizes known criminals. The civil liberties groups have opposed this system, too. Privacy International, a human-rights group, gave the borough council a “Big Brother” award last year on the 50th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell's famous novel.


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