Facial recognition technology coming to car parks

Big Brother is watching you, even while you park your car. In a bid to improve security in car parks, NCP will be trialling the use of facial recognition cameras in 40 of their car parks in Greater Manchester.

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We in Britain are already the most spied upon people in the world and it is estimated that UK citizens are filmed on CCTV on average 3,000 times a week.

While we may have got used to the idea of being filmed constantly, this new move by NCP means that our faces could now be recognised and possibly even stored on a database.

Now when someone enters an NCP car park with facial recognition technology, there faces will be automatically scanned and crossreferenced with a database of known car thieves to find any matches. Once a match has been made, an alert will be sent to the Manchester city centre control room.

Lee Holland, NCP's regional director, said: "We hope that our customers will view this as a positive move to help improve the security we offer at our car parks. Our aim is to help customers to feel comfortable that they are parking in an environment which is extra-vigilant when it comes to dealing with the small minority involved in car crime."

This same technology is already in use in Manchester Airport where it was trialled in 1998. It has been successful in catching people using false passports and has known been introduced at Brimingham Airport.

The technology is capable of recognising millions of human faces, although opponents of the technology fear that there could be flaws that result in innocent people being matched to criminal's faces.

David Page, from the No2ID privacy campaign group, said: "If you are an innocent person who happens to look a bit like a criminal, I would be worried about what the response would be. What would happen if you were wrongly added to this database? What recourse would you have? Would you be banned from every one of NCP's car parks?"

Pictures of innocent people's faces are not stored on the database but are discarded as soon as they have been scanned and compared. And legal experts state that any private company storing information about individuals without permission would be punished.

When private companies wish to access the police database of criminal's faces, they must go through the police rather than having direct access to data.

John Sargeson, a crime reduction adviser with the Greater Manchester Police, said: "We currently do not link our GMP databases with external companies because of data protection issues."

What do you think? Is this a good way to deter car thieves or is it an invasion of privacy? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.