Dubai police are rigging $1,500 Google Glass gadgets up with facial recognition for use by their detectives, Reuters reports.
A spokesman confirmed a report in Dubai’s 7 Days newspaper that police have developed software that will connect a Glass wearer to a database of wanted people.
Once the device matches a suspect with a face print in the database, it alerts the officer wearing the gadget.
Phase 1 of the project will be using the devices to fight traffic violations and track vehicles suspected of vehicular offences, the spokesman said.
Detectives will get their crack at the technology in phase 2 of the rollout.
Well, it will be handy for keeping their gun hands free. But is Dubai experiencing a crime wave that would justify this lavish gadget investment?
If it seems a lavish expense for a place with such a low rate of (reported) crime, bear in mind that last year Dubai said it would outfit its police with $400,000 Lamborghini sports cars for use at major tourist sites – in keeping with Dubai’s image of unparalleled luxury, according to its deputy police chief.
For its part, Google has consistently said that it won’t add new face recognition features to its services unless it has strong privacy protections in place.
In May 2013, Google announced that it wouldn’t allow developers to distribute facial recognition software through its Glassware app store for Glass.
That hasn’t stopped third parties, though.
It’s just meant that software has had to be “sideloaded” onto the device: i.e., installed with developer tools outside of the official Android Market.
That’s how developers at Lambda Labs, for one, have gotten their face-recognition API out to the Glass-hacking and developer community.
Dubai isn’t the first city to outfit Robocops.
The New York Police Department, for example, in February 2014 began testing Glass for use in investigations.
It’s all in keeping with the trend for US cities to increasingly gobble up data on residents using surveillance technology such as gunshot-detection sensors, license plate readers, data-mining of social media posts for criminal activity, tracking of toll payments when drivers use electronic passes, and even at least one police purchase of a drone in Texas.
Much of this has been done in spite of concerns about violations of the Wiretap Act and the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search.
At any rate, concerns about facial recognition extend beyond Glass.
The US National Security Agency (NSA), for one, has been collecting millions of images from the web and storing them in a database that experts say can be mined by facial recognition software for identifying surveillance targets.
A freedom of information request in April uncovered that the US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) is building a massive facial recognition database that could contain as many as 52 million images by 2015, including 4.3 million non-criminal images.
Where is this all heading?
If you want to get really paranoid, go read The Atlantic’s write-up about how facial-recognition technology has been developed that’s better at reading human facial movements – and hence better at deciphering when somebody is telling even a white lie – than humans themselves, at least in lab conditions.
Then, read George Orwell’s definition of a Facecrime from 1984:
It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself -- anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.
Facial recognition technology can be used to develop wonderful, human-positive applications.
Developers have, for example, described applications that will help Alzheimer’s patients identify the faces of loved ones.
Should we be hopeful, paranoid, or both?
Image of Google Class courtesy of Hattanas Kumchai / Shutterstock.com. Image of facial recognition courtesy of Shutterstock
13 comments on “Dubai police add facial recognition to Google Glass”
1. False positives.
2. Breaking in or tricking an insider into entering people you don’t like into the Wanted database.
Dubai will never report either of these, of course.
How does this fit within an Islamic state? Most (or all) females are required to wear head-dress that covers the face apart from the eyes. So how does face recognition differentiate between one pair of eyes behind a burka from another?
your iris is as unique as your fingerprint. provided they can get a good look at the iris…would not be hard to pick an individual out of a crowd
From what I gather, wearing abayat (the dress) is common, but wearing the veil (known as a niqāb) is less so.
From a National Post article on how difficult women in find it to get hired if they wear the niqāb (http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=4d1c92b1-f40e-43ea-937c-1e118d345508&p=1):
“In Dubai, the most modern emirate where multinationals keep their regional hubs and expatriate non-Muslims make up a large proportion of the population, women who wear the niqab find it hard to get jobs.”
Does the wearing of a burka render this technology redundant? Whose eyes are they behind that mask? Can the technology decipher one from another?
yes, it can. your iris is as unique as your fingerprints
That’s a different technology. Iris recognition as currently used normally works by having the subject hold their face within a few centimetres of a high resolution camera for an extreme close up picture of the iris. I think ‘standoff’ iris recognition is mostly confined to research projects at the moment.
Google glass almost certainly doesn’t have the required camera resolution.
A full face covering burka or niqāb would stop face recognition. Perhaps gait recognition could be usable to some extent there.
Time to grow a beard and wear dark glasses, or will that be illegal,,
For every technology they develop to boost spying power someone else creates technology to stifle it. This would be easily defeated with the anti surveillance mask (easy to find on google) which will hopefully become cheaply mass produced soon. The mask with either a cheap pair of glasses or even contacts would defeat the facial/iris recognition.
“Developers have, for example, described applications that will help Alzheimer’s patients identify the faces of loved ones.”
Absolutely useless. Someone who has moderate or severe Alzheimer’s will not be able to make the connection between the name that appears on an eyeglass screen and the person who sits or stands right in front of him. Moreover, some people who have Alzheimer’s are no longer able to understand abstract concepts, such as letters. And some people who have Alzheimer’s can read, but they do not understand the meaning or significance of what they read.
Like most else about the internet, it can be used as a wonderful tool for good, or a weapon for evil. We have to build effective controls.
I don’t know if the iris I.D. thing would work. My optomitrist uses a very specialized camera with a large f-stop, in a dark room with special lighting and very close to my eye.
Google Glass probably has a pinhole camera similar to the ones used in smartphones. Not exactly Iris I.D. material.
I don’t get the impression that the face veil—the niqāb—is widely worn.
Even if it were, iris recognition would only come into play in covert surveillance.
All that Glass-clad police have to do to identify somebody is to stop her, then tell her to remove her veil so they can check her image against their database.