If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear. That’s always the classic argument trotted out in support of any new surveillance technology. As facial recognition technology is rolled out across the globe, proponents argue it will help keep us safe and protect us from crime, terrorism, and other threats.

However, there are deep concerns about the technology. Some analysts argue that facial recognition algorithms still suffer from false positives and racial bias. Furthermore, the widespread abuse of the technology by the Chinese government in Xinjiang has raised serious ethical questions.

Want to learn more about facial recognition? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Don, who is extremely positive about the benefits of facial recognition technologies. He thinks they can help protect our borders, and keep us safe from crime and terrorism.

To get a response to Don, we put his comment to Dieter Romann, the head of Germany’s federal police force. What would he say?

I agree with Don. Within the framework of the Berlin Südkreuz “Safety Station” project, the German Federal Police together with the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Federal Criminal Police Office and Deutsche Bahn tested the use of intelligent video analysis technology between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018. The results of the project found that state-of-the-art facial recognition systems are a good support tool for averting danger and for police searches for offenders and terrorists.

For a different perspective, we also spoke to Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, a UK non-profit organisation that campaigns against mass surveillance. What would she say?

Next up, we had a comment from Duncan saying he supports facial recognition technology being used on publicly-controlled CCTV. However, what about private CCTV? Shops, bars, and music concerts are all pioneering facial recognition technology and, while there’s been a lot of scrutiny over facial recognition used by police or intelligence services, should we be more worried about its use in the private sector?

How would Silkie Carlo from Big Brother Watch respond?

And what would Germany’s federal police chief, Dieter Romann, say in response?

Duncan might have read that in the US hidden cameras are sometimes used behind shelves that record the eye movements of customers to analyse their buying behaviour – what products were looked at, when, how, and for how long and, above all, why ultimately the purchase decision was made. In Germany, the use of so-called eye-tracking would violate the right to informational self-determination and therefore infringe the data protection regulations. There are various actors in Germany who ensure that these rules are adhered to.

Do you mind if you face is scanned by police? Is there better oversight of facial recognition in the public sector? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (c) BigStock – Trismegist8; PORTRAIT CREDITS: Romann (c) Bundespolizei


95 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Oscar

    Yes. If im not a criminal my privacy should be sacred.

  2. avatar
    Nikolai

    I don’t mind at all. If I’m not a criminal I’ve nothing to hide. And it’s a good deterrent to terrorists and other persons disturbing the public and social order.

    • avatar
      Gérald

      You know, or you are really stupid, that this system will not serve to protect the population but only to serve the leaders of the land. If you’re against mesure they should take , you will be followed anywhere you go and arrested without any witness …

    • avatar
      Luc

      Till they get the wrong person. Systems makes errrors….

    • avatar
      Nikolai

      I tend to trust the police – at least in the place where I live now. And there is always the courts system to deal with errors. It’s not that easy to frame people just like that.

    • avatar
      Marc

      Nikolai, Spoken like a true statist!

    • avatar
      Nikolai

      In most of Western Europe, this is a fact

    • avatar
      Martin

      Nikolai, said like a good little brown shirt.

  3. avatar
    Gérald

    I worked during 30ty years in a state secret service … I can assure you, that the first objective is not the public security but the protection of the governental politic … We aren’t spying ‘terrorists” but ordinary citizens who are members of “trade unions” , or writers, or reporters, aso… SHould we fight against dangerous activists , there will never succeed making bombs explode in areas so protected as airports…. They fail in their mission and what the reaction : parliament give more machines, more weapons, more power, more money, more rights against their own population , instead of asking question …… I have written my own souvenirs giving examples of what normaly may NEVER occure and had happened … One error is an error…. A lot of “errors” are no mistakes, but “conspiracy” … allways in same direction ! Remember the case of “rainwow warrior” ; remember the secret cabinet at the Elysee, listening more than 4000 french citizens under order of the french travaillist president …

    • avatar
      Nikolai

      Well, it serves the purpose for fighting street crime, as suspects for an offence and anti-social behaviour (e.g. grafitti) will be able to be indentified and apprehended quickly. Images on cameras nowadays are grainy and don’t help the police at all.

  4. avatar
    Tamzin

    Nikolai, basically you feel safe because you think the police is on your side and catching criminals regularly? The small petty criminals might spend a day or two in jail and then they are released to commit crime again. The big criminals will still be outside the justice system, if justice is under political systems.
    One can never be sure to what end this information is going to be used….and if this will be used for political means to stop any opposition.

  5. avatar
    Ruurdt

    I believe it is a dangerous development. Besides that there is no watertight system which is avoiding the use for unlawful activities. Extreem ultra right and extreem ultra left or corrupt police and justice might going to use it for illegaal purposes.

    • avatar
      Gérald

      You’re right !

  6. avatar
    Gérald

    Yes, surely, 1984 is really not so far at the moment…. A group of gangsters leading the country with small police units, well armed, listening your phones, conversations, reading what you’r writing …. Freedom is well loosed , has vanished … We have to react against that ….

    • avatar
      Koen

      “What Orwell failed to predict is that we’d buy the cameras ourselves, and that our biggest fear would be that nobody was watching.”

    • avatar
      Gérald

      in french we say : “l’homme passe la moitié de sa vie à se forger ses propres chaînes…. et l’autre moitié à s’en plaindre “…. But now, chains will be so strong that it will be unpossible to liberate ourself ! and there will be less and less policemen necessary with all these electronical systems , it’s a good idea to install a dictatorial regime : machines + a small group of men doing the “dirty job”

  7. avatar
    Tamzin

    Police are people who are employed. The question is what do they do with your face scan and who is it given to for further action? If tomorrow there is a far right government in place, will they use the scans to further their own political agendas?

  8. avatar
    Borislav

    Bg police is not exactly trustworthy so No I don’t like being scaned

    • avatar
      I. Geshev

      I disagree. We have successfully prevented terrorists from taking over the sprinklers near National Assembly and staging a coup d’etat by getting the PM wet. You can totally trust me on this ;)

  9. avatar
    Matthew

    “Is privacy for peasants still relevant?”

  10. avatar
    Ghislaine

    No,. Loves the police for a lifetime.

    • avatar
      Martin

      I guess your a member…

    • avatar
      Ghislaine

      no. I’m a writer and worked my hole life as a cleaning lady. A genetor in many plants

  11. avatar
    Joseph

    Avec l’application de ces technologies, nous n’aurons plus ancune liberté ni aucun droit à l’anonymat. Surveillés, nous serons par nos gouvernements, nos marchands…. rien de leur échappera … vive la répression et le marketing.

  12. avatar
    Elisabeth

    YES!! I do not want this! Stop 5G. Read 1984 (GEORGE ORWELL). Soon they are watching us in our own house

  13. avatar
    Dirk

    Your face? Ze weten elke dag welke kleur van onderbroek dat je aanhebt……

  14. avatar
    Giovani

    yes I mind , because non of those muppets in charge can be trusted

  15. avatar
    Vanloy

    they should scan the eye as a form off identification, only stopped or checked on the street, you should be identiable at all cost! No Chinese control systems where you are surpressed by the state! We are not someones property!

  16. avatar
    Georges

    Quoi que l’on fasse, où que l’on aille, quoi que l’on dise au téléphone ou sur mail, nous sommes suivis.

  17. avatar
    Sam

    Yess, we have no sense of privacy left as,it is already, walk in the street and you’re filmed all the time, drive the car, same thing, go online, same thing… it is Orwells 1974 in reality

  18. avatar
    Wolteche

    The question is not to be or not to be scanned by the police… the question is the use of this scan!!!

  19. avatar
    Agnieszka

    Anybody watched the Capture?
    Therefore, yes I do mind!

  20. avatar
    Jude

    I do not find it necessary …it can end up being antidemocratic and used with some abuse by some

  21. avatar
    Martin

    Yes, the police have no right to know someone’s identity unless you’re committing a crime.

  22. avatar
    Seneca

    Yes they get to see my young me and i did a lot of drugs in those day’s , now i have a other life and kids . so if they scan i will always get the full control and strip search when i don’t deserve it maybe in front of my kids and family !!! i have nothing to hide but it will happen every scan when i take a plain , bus, train, … #imnocriminal !

  23. avatar
    Cosmin

    I have nothing to hide so they SHOULD NOT scan or put me under surveillance.

  24. avatar
    Marleen

    No I don’t mind ! Have nothing to hide !

  25. avatar
    catherine benning

    Why would any democratic and free government want to have such horrendous forms of subjugation of its people? Open incarceration. Prison planet.

  26. avatar
    Pamela

    No, I don’t, why should I?

  27. avatar
    Τζινα

    Is this a rhetorical question?

  28. avatar
    Liz

    They already are doing it for passports.

  29. avatar
    David

    No as long as every single assholes face is scanned starting with all corrupt polititions.

  30. avatar
    Dan

    Stating the obvious but hey…I mind.

    • avatar
      Dobromir

      What if they pinky promise not to abuse the data?

    • avatar
      Dan

      I would mind even more.

  31. avatar
    GP

    Yes I do. Governments and the EU can’t be trusted.

  32. avatar
    Montarcilio

    In my mind, I do not like to be scanning by polyce with any reason to do that. Remember, someone is watching you.

  33. avatar
    Γεώργιος

    Not at all because police is guardian of people from crime and criminals

  34. avatar
    Nikolai

    No, I don’t. I’ve nothing to hide.
    Delete, hide or report this

    • avatar
      Joao

      “If you think privacy is unimportant for you because you have nothing to hide, you might as well say free speech is unimportant for you because you have nothing useful to say” – Edward Snowden

  35. avatar
    Enric

    Why not? If you have nothing to hide.

  36. avatar
    Vassiliki

    Yes… I am not a criminal. Why should they search me?

    • avatar
      Νικολαος

      No I do not..

  37. avatar
    Julia

    It is creepy. The EU can’t abolish homelessness and poverty but it can waste tax payer money to scan people’s faces.

  38. avatar
    Jose

    al politcians faces most be scanned by police

  39. avatar
    Carlos TF

    … technology will make people’s freedom addicted to technology.

  40. avatar
    Carlos

    … technology will make people’s freedom addicted to technology.

  41. avatar
    Andrea

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” B.Franklin

  42. avatar
    Manuel

    No, because it’s better than getting slapped in the face.

  43. avatar
    Ricardo

    Why not? When I’m out and about? Sure, hope that way they avoid more crime and terrorism

  44. avatar
    Христо

    Yes. That is unconstitutional. There is a strange paradox – we Europeans who should travel freely to Europe are getting checked by the police, they take off our shoes, they scan our faces, they take our fingerprints, they touch our girls but they don’t do that to non-Europeans. Why?

    • avatar
      Ante

      Read Orwell 1984,and you’ll understand it

  45. avatar
    Filipe

    Yes, I do. That may be normal in a dictatorship like China, but is unlawful and extremely invasive in European democracies. Freedom is worth the risk of some insecurity. Terrorism cannot be the excuse for everything.

  46. avatar
    Triantafyllia

    BBC News Turkey attacks to Greece. They Don t sent immigrants to Bulgaria a country very close to Turkey by land and far closer and safer to go by sea than to go to Greece because they have other thoughts for my country. Europe stop them

  47. avatar
    Gonçalo

    Yes. Read Orwell you numpties

  48. avatar
    Jeroen

    Yes. Its the tools of an oppressors. Oppressors are always in the end paid with lead and violence.

  49. avatar
    Francisca

    Depends… when, where, why…. at the airport? Trainstation? …via surveillance camera’s @streets? Or in shops? /restaurants?

  50. avatar
    Arnout

    Yes especially if they love China to get their 5g

  51. avatar
    Panos

    es and no. If I’m scanned, found not to be a wanted criminal nor a suspected terrorist and my image is immediately deleted, I don’t mind. On the contrary I enjoy some added security.
    But in case my presence is kept and my profile is constructed out of bits and pieces and then I targeted by the authorities I do mind a lo

  52. avatar
    Francis

    as long as optional , human rights are most important in europe

    • avatar
      Michael

      There most certainly is an argument for.

    • avatar
      Craif

      No Winston, there isn’t.

    • avatar
      Craig

      No Winston, there isn’t.

  53. avatar
    Carlos

    … opening this debate is already threatening and stupid for Europeans.

  54. avatar
    Julia

    I feel uncomfortable with the online tracking and coordinated censorship we have now let alone physical tracking. I feel I need alternatives to Google, YouTube, Facebook and Microsoft – which has easily remedied security issues to ransomware that apple and some laptops take care of with some simple extra features. Actually YouTube and Facebook are the easiest to replace. But that Google is everywhere and in other browsers too. I feel I want my freedom and privacy back not lose even more freedom and privacy.

  55. avatar
    Julia

    Additionally I saw a documentary about hackers who easily infect computers with encrypted software called RATS and sells access to people’s infected computers where they buyer can turn the computers microphone and camera on and spy on people live. It also gives them access to files on people’s computer to delete or hold ransom. Hackers call these human-commodities ‘slaves’ as the buyer has complete control over their data and can see their every move and hear their every word live. How is Government surveillance any different to hackers selling access and data of ‘slaves’? Additionally this surveillance slave society will have new potential for hackers selling hacked surveillance slaves. The government surveillance industry are just legalised hackers who turn people and their data into legalised digital slaves. Legal but not moral or ethical.It is digital slavery.

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