Nearly all areas of the modern world have now adopted some form of surveillance camera apparatus. With the concurrent rise in biometric identification technology, we are now entering the next phase of unprecedented privacy reduction: surveillance cameras equipped with real-time facial recognition, tied into police departments.
Russian company NTechLab made headlines last year for its implementation of FindFace, a software that was applied to Russia’s social media site VKontakte and its nearly 300 million users. The software claimed a 70% success rate in matching any photo taken to a social media profile, allowing strangers to identify one another instantaneously. FindFace was an immediate hit, signing up half a million users in its first two months.
NTechLab is now announcing that they are ready to fulfill the next stage of their development which integrates emotional identifiers into their facial recognition software. The company is claiming a 94% success rate in being able to detect markers that indicate stress, anger or anxiety. The company believes that the merger of these technologies would be a natural fit for surveillance cameras to aid police in pre-crime detection.
While the company is not explicitly stating that it is working with the Russian government to roll this out to Moscow’s estimated 150,000 CCTV security cameras, NTechLab’s chief executive, Alexander Kabakov, has clearly indicated that it’s moving in that direction in a Telegraph article where he stated:
The recognition gives a new level of security in the street because in a couple of seconds you can identify terrorists or criminals or killers.
Moreover, he correctly identifies the general acceptance of public surveillance that has taken place and the contributions made by people who readily surveil one another on a daily basis:
“If the street didn’t have cameras I could understand people might have some concerns, but now on every street you have cameras,” he said. “If you’re in a public space, you have no privacy.”
He added that the expectation of privacy has disappeared with the advent of smartphones. “Now, with smartphones, we don’t have privacy because phones know so much about you, including your behaviour and location,” he said.
It should be alarming that he is, of course, talking about Moscow, but he could easily make the very same statement in New York or London. And, in fact, there is very little difference in the path being taken.
The U.S. already has tested “pre-crime” police systems, most notably in Chicago, Miami, Arizona and California. Meanwhile, nationally it was discovered that nearly half of the population is in a facial recognition database that was secretly built by the FBI and that 90% of those people don’t even have a criminal record.
The Intercept further noted that these technologies are synthesizing into a very real possibility that police body cameras will soon be equipped with real-time facial recognition:
The integration of real-time face recognition with body-worn cameras is further along than lawmakers and citizens realize. A recent Justice Department-funded survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that at least nine out of 38 manufacturers of body cameras currently have facial recognition capacities or have built in an option for such technology to be used later.
Finally, while NTechLabs appears to be targeting Russia as its first location, it is a global company that has customers both in constitutional republics like the U.S., as well as countries with far fewer legislative restrictions on government surveillance. But, as we have learned, there is very little practical difference in an age of fear, propaganda and a populace willing to succumb to both.