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IP: New Surveillance Face Mapping System

From: [email protected]
Subject: IP: New Surveillance Face Mapping System
Date: Tue, 06 Oct 1998 08:54:09 -0500
To: [email protected]

Source:  The London Independent
U.K. Section

New spy system to 'map' suspects 

By Jason Bennetto, Crimes Correspondent 

A REVOLUTIONARY surveillance system that
allows the police to automatically identify the
faces of wanted criminals and suspects in seconds
is to be tested on the streets of Britain for the first

The "facial mapping" computer will be used to
catch muggers, burglars and shoplifters, but it is
expected to be extended to target other cases
including wanted killers, terrorists and missing
children. The Football Association is also
interested in using the technology to help pick out
known hooligans at matches. 

The system, known as Mandrake, is to be tested
by Scotland Yard and Newham borough council
in a six-month trial in east London, starting next

A computer data base of faces of offenders will
be compared with film taken by local authority
surveillance cameras in shopping centres, streets
and housing estates. The computer automatically
"matches" the faces of suspects and triggers an
alarm, warning the operator who then contacts
the police. 

More than 1,000 images can be examined per
second. It automatically ignores beards and
moustaches so offenders cannot hide under

Photo-fit images can also be included on the data
base but tests show they are less accurate than

The system was criticised yesterday by the civil
rights organisation Liberty, which said it could fall
foul of human rights and data protection

However the developers of Mandrake, the police
and local councils, believe the system could
revolutionise CCTV and, if it proves successful, is
likely to be used nation-wide. 

Facial recognition systems are already used in
Texas to stop sham marriages and on the
Mexican border to prevent illegal immigration. 

Under the trial, Scotland Yard is providing
dozens of photographs of wanted offenders, often
taken by surveillance cameras in shops and
banks. It will also supply pictures of convicted
criminals, mostly for offences such as street
robbery, burglary, and repeat shoplifting. 

The images will be placed on the computer which
measures dozens of key facial characteristics,
such as the eye shape and size. The computer
then scans all the faces picked out on CCTV and
will sound an alarm if it makes a match. 

The picture of suspect and the person they
supposedly resemble then automatically appear
on the CCTV operator's screen along with a
secret code number. The police are then sent the
pictures and the number via computer. 

The product, which has been developed by
Software and Systems International in Slough,
west of London, can be used to catch criminals
on the run or missing persons. More
controversially, it can also be used to track
suspects who the police believe may commit

In future the police, customs, and immigration
officers could use it at ports to identify known
terrorists, smugglers and other criminals
attempting to enter the country. 

A Scotland Yard spokesman said the system had
an 80 per cent "hit" rate. On the question of civil
liberties, he argued: "If you are innocent you have
nothing to worry about." It has been tested at
Watford football ground, but the poor quality of
the surveillance equipment made it difficult for the
computer to make matches. 
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