UK police begin first facial recognition trial

The software has already been used to identify more than 200 suspects by scanning the police database of previous arrests

Police in Leicestershire will become the first in the UK to trial automatic facial recognition software that matches mug shots to footage captured by CCTV and body cameras.

The program, known as NeoFace, will replace the current identification process by which officers manually sift through their database of more than 90,000 photos

Leicestershire Police say they’ve been evaluating the software for several months and have used it to process “around two hundred suspects”.

The software works by comparing dozens of measurements of key facial features. Its creator, NEC, claim that it is accurate even when analysing “highly compressed surveillance video and images previously considered of little to no value”.

The company also makes a version of its software that works in real time for CCTV cameras, identifying known individuals and flagging up any who appear on a specified watch list.

The results of the program cannot be used by evidence in court, but Leicestershire Police says it gives detectives “significant help in developing new lines of inquiry” by scanning the force’s complete database in “seconds”.

This database only contains images of people who have either been previously arrested by the police or who have given permission for their images to be stored – for example, identity parade volunteers.

The trial will last for six months before UK police consider expanding the software’s use. In the US, however, facial recognition software is on the way to becoming the norm with the FBI deploying its own software, Next Generation Identification, in all 50 states by the end of the year.

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