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Biometric Face Recognition At Your Local Mall 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the sunglass-and-disguise-hut dept.
dippityfisch writes "The Sydney Morning Herald reports that face recognition is being considered at Westfield's Sydney mall to catch offenders. The identification system matches images captured by surveillance cameras to an existing database of faces. Police said they could not comment on the center's intentions, but would welcome any move to improve security and technology in the area."
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Biometric Face Recognition At Your Local Mall

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  • Solution? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheWizardTim (599546) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:15AM (#30385580) Journal

    One possible solution that I can think of, if you want to keep your privacy, is to wear a mask. Security should not have a problem with that, right?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)
      • Walk past the camera backwards.
      • Give the camera the finger (looking through the fingers)
      • Close one eye
      • Next time close the other eye
      • Wear a hat
      • Wear a jacket with a hood
      • Turn your head

      etc.

      • Re:Solution? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ockegheim (808089) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:23AM (#30385608)

        Maybe sullen teenagers with hoodies are on to something...

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by xaxa (988988)

          Maybe sullen teenagers with hoodies are on to something...

          They were onto it years ago: Mall bans shoppers' hooded tops [bbc.co.uk].

          • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward
            And that's not BY FAR the only instance, of course. My local mall won't allow hoodies, or even a cap worn backwards (the backwards cap is considered a 'gang' symbol. *chortle*). I'm about to move several hours away. I've hung out with friends in my soon-to-be locale, at the malls. They also won't allow hoodies. That's as far as I've seen. Security, though, doesn't care about ten-year-olds playin grab-ass (and crotch and chest) and making out with their hands in each others' clothes in the middle of th
      • by iamhassi (659463)
        "Turn your head"

        that'll work until they have a camera on the other side

        Enemy of the State. Things have changed so much that they could make it now and be more realistic without satellites tracking individual people, just link stoplight cameras, speed cameras, store surveillance cameras and Predators [wikipedia.org]. Hell throw in a few camera phones for good measure. Surveillance has come a very long way in just 11 years.
      • by Golddess (1361003)

        Wear a jacket with a hood

        I've heard some malls are telling people to remove their hoods or GTFO.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In many jurisdictions (such as mine), wearing a mask in public (except in inclement weather, or as required by a medical condition) is a criminal act in itself.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Nocterro (648910)
      Over here in sleepy old Adelaide, South Australia, our Westfield guards have been known to cause deaths Security guard charged over elderly man's death [abc.net.au]. Walking into a mall with your bike helmet accidentally left on will quickly atttract a number of tall, angry men.
      A mask would be asking for way more trouble than it would be worth, as it'd be taken as practically a declaration of intent to cause trouble.
    • Shop somewhere else?

    • Or join Pirate Party Australia [pirateparty.org.au].
    • by daem0n1x (748565)
      In my country it's illegal to enter a shop with your face covered. Every time I fill my motorcycle I have to remove the helmet before.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by one2wonder (1328797)
      How about an IR mask? You could always embed a bunch of smd ir leds into the brim of a cap, or affix some to glasses. (glasses would likely be tougher to pull off as they'd need an external power pack located elsewhere) Something like this: http://www.engadget.com/2008/02/23/diy-ir-headgear-repels-security-cameras-attracts-security/ [engadget.com]
  • Police state, here we come.
    • ...but it seems like it's the Brits and Aussies who actually end up taking it seriously.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      This isn't police state, this is police corporation. In my experience people who make comments about the big government tend to vote in politicians that don't like regulating businesses. Regulating businesses is the only way to stop police corporations. This is the opposite of a police state, this is a free state that lets the corporations do whatever they want.
      • Re:What the fuck? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ultranova (717540) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @09:15AM (#30387136)

        This is the opposite of a police state, this is a free state that lets the corporations do whatever they want.

        As someone once said: one pole isn't really all that different from the other if you're stranded there.

        Extreme libertarians and extreme communists have a lot in common: they have ideology, will sacrifice anything for their ideology, consider it the perfect solution to every problem, refuse to listen to any indication that there might be a problem with it, etc etc. The end result of either ideology getting control is an economic and humanitarian disaster. The same is true of every ideology: taking a good idea too far turns it into a parody of itself. That's why people who want economic and personal freedom end up building a private police state. The state with the smallest possible government is known as a jungle, and only the biggest gorillas have freedom there, the rest having only the freedom to obey or die.

        I wonder how many "libertarians don't support corporations" replies will I get? They all miss the point, of course: the shield of limited liability is not needed if you're too big for anyone to hold you liable. That's why you can't sue the government: who would enforce the judgement?

        • I wonder how many "libertarians don't support corporations" replies will I get? They all miss the point, of course: the shield of limited liability is not needed if you're too big for anyone to hold you liable. That's why you can't sue the government: who would enforce the judgement?

          You should expect more "If you don't like it you can go to another mall".

          Which classically ignores that loss of privacy for "the consumer" is an externalized cost to the "mall market" and therefore will be implemented by all malls in order to compete. Mall A sets up cameras and Mall B doesn't. Mall A directly improves its profit margin because it reduces shoplifting and more/better stores want to open in Mall A. Mall B loses business because it doesn't have the better stores/variety.

      • This is the opposite of a police state, this is a free state that lets the corporations do whatever they want.

        Except if the goals of these police corporations are virtually indistinguishable from the wishes of the state that lets them thrive. The resulting intimate meshing of corporations and government is then called fascism.

        • Well not necessarily, Corporatism is more like Communism than anything. However I agree given the way things are going now a Corporate state made up of Walmart, Monsanto, Sony, TSA would be just as fascist and surveillance oriented as the worst police states you can think of.
    • by Thinko (615319)
      How is this any different from what the Las Vegas (and countless other) casinos have done for as long as the technology has been available (even at very high cost). I don't disagree this is a slippery slope, but with the cost of the software and utility computing/processing power ever falling, from a technical standpoint this is an inevitability. I'd be very surprised if there weren't US malls (and even individual businesses) already running facial recognition software, it probably just wasn't highly public
  • .... to the Panopticon. Where everything you do, can and will be tracked.

  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:33AM (#30385638) Homepage

    I don't know about Australia, but malls in the US are private property. They can and will issue a no trespass order against anybody who causes them problems (shoplifters mostly).

    If you don't want to be entered into their surveillance system don't shop at their mall.

    It's their property they can do what they want with it. It's no different from me running facial recognition against people who walk up my stairs. (which i dont do btw..)

    • by crazybit (918023) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:42AM (#30385670)

      It's their property they can do what they want with it. It's no different from me running facial recognition against people who walk up my stairs. (which i dont do btw..)

      No, they can't. People's rights must be respected even in private property, that's why local bars can't install cameras on girls bathrooms. You can install facial recognition, but people can still walk on the street with glasses and a hat.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        No, they can't. People's rights must be respected even in private property, that's why local bars can't install cameras on girls bathrooms. You can install facial recognition, but people can still walk on the street with glasses and a hat.

        The only reason local bars cannot install cameras in the girls bathroom is the expectation of privacy. When you go to the mall you have no expectation of privacy outside of the bathroom.

        The mall is perfectly within their rights to require people not wear disguises in the mall as well.

        • by crazybit (918023)
          I know they can install cameras if they want, I was talking about the assumption that people "can do what they want with their property".

          Also, wearing glasses and a hat (more than enough for breaking most facial recognition software) should not be considered a disguise, many people use them (together or separately) as part of their "look". Don't know in the US, but in my country there are anti-discrimination laws that protect the right of people to enter a establishment regardless the clothes they wear / c
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:30AM (#30385850)

          When you go to the mall you have no expectation of privacy outside of the bathroom.

          Or maybe in changing rooms or phone booths or ...

          How about they have a guard follow you around watching your every move at close range, listening in on your every conversation, making notes of everything you touch, everything you buy and so on. That's ok too? How about random searches of your bags? After all, you might have stolen something and you're on their private property.

          The whole "no expectation of privacy in public" is nonsense. Just because you are in a public space shouldn't mean it's ok to protocol your every move, word and thought and store it in some database.

          Just wait till thought/feeling reading gets perfected. Hey it's a public place so we can record all your brainwaves. Yes yes of course, such technology will never come. Good for us.

          • by cc1984_ (1096355)

            How about they have a guard follow you around watching your every move at close range, listening in on your every conversation, making notes of everything you touch, everything you buy and so on. That's ok too? How about random searches of your bags? After all, you might have stolen something and you're on their private property.

            That's absolutely fine. I had something similar to that happen to me in a supermarket (a security guy following me around for no reason other than the color of my shoelaces.)

            No problem at all. I just walked out. I'm not obliged to be there.

            • No matter if its private property or not, there needs to be some limit on what security guards can and cannot do. A limit in the sense of where I cannot swing my fist near someone's face.

              A private property can have its own rules and limits set, but assaulting people is still illegal, no matter if done in private, public or wherever. A guard following your every move could very well be assault and stalking depending on how threatening and/or sexual this behavior would be.

              I am all for free and self-regulating

          • Just wait till thought/feeling reading gets perfected

            That's when BotnetZombie's Tinfoil Productions will finally become profittable.

        • by bronney (638318)

          I know you don't mean it like that but that cracked my up hehehe. Last time I was in a mall I saw mickey mouse walking around hehehe.

        • by dzfoo (772245)

          Hum... If people didn't have any expectation of privacy in the mall, why are they suddenly complaining that their privacy is being violated?

                  -d.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mdwh2 (535323)

          The only reason local bars cannot install cameras in the girls bathroom is the expectation of privacy. When you go to the mall you have no expectation of privacy outside of the bathroom.

          Says who? Remember, you said "It's their property they can do what they want with it." You never qualified that with expectations of privacy.

          The point is that there's no black and white issue here. Anyone can assert that you either do or don't have an "expectation of privacy" in a particular location - you're just making it

        • by mishehu (712452)
          I don't know, I have an expectation of no "minority report" photographing of my face just to stop by the local mall. I also do not understand how this is meant to make the mall any safer really for the same reason that I don't consider most red-light cameras to be doing a damn thing for safety either.
        • by Belial6 (794905)

          When you go to the mall you have no expectation of privacy outside of the bathroom.

          You are clearly wrong about this. The fact that you even said it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are fully aware that the person you responded to DOES have an expectation of privacy in the mall.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dugeen (1224138)
        Absolutely. Malls have an implied invitation to the general public to enter - and their rights come in with them. 'Private property' isn't a law-free zone even in a capitalist analysis.
      • but people can still walk on the street with glasses and a hat.

        actually, you can't. seriously! that could be considered 'going out in disguise'. pretty sure that's illegal. in our 'new constitution' (the one we really use; not the 200+ yr old paper version) its illegal to hide your identity in public. (go check, I'm not kidding).

        not sure how the halloween thing is allowed, but if you check the laws, its often illegal to cover up your identity in certain (many?) public situations. boggle! but its true

    • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:53AM (#30385704)

      If you don't want to be entered into their surveillance system don't shop at their mall.

      And when every business participates in a facial ID program to help stop theft, the excuse will be "it's private property and everyone else does it." When cities start putting facial ID systems in public places the excuses will be "It's to help catch bad people, and anyway it already happens every place you go into, so we might as well connect it all and know where you are at all times."

      Maybe that won't happen, but why the hell are we letting them risk it? This is to catch "thieves?" Give me a break. That's a stupid reason to start this crap.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        And when every business participates in a facial ID program to help stop theft, the excuse will be "it's private property and everyone else does it." When cities start putting facial ID systems in public places the excuses will be "It's to help catch bad people, and anyway it already happens every place you go into, so we might as well connect it all and know where you are at all times."

        Maybe that won't happen, but why the hell are we letting them risk it? This is to catch "thieves?" Give me a break. That's a stupid reason to start this crap.

        Great, start your own store and cater to those who dont want to be filmed while shopping. Either you'll get rich or you'll get robbed blind, either way you'll have figured out how most people feel.

        • First off, I'm busy with biological research, loftier goals, I won't be starting my own store. Second, plenty... no wait... the vast majority of stores out there don't use this and manage to not be robbed out of business. Third, one or even several stores won't change much. If these systems get convenient and cheap enough for stores to implement, and they think they can prevent enough loss to pay for the system, it's going to be in their interests to all implement systems like this. They don't care abou

          • If it is in your interest not to be under surveillance while shopping then you will shop at a store which does not put you under surveillance, that store will do better and it's competitors will fail.

            But lets be real, 99% of the population could not care less that someone is watching them shop and as such the stores really don't care that you don't like it.

            • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Disingenuous. A lot of people do care, and would be annoyed if they were aware of what was happening. But they won't be, and even if they are aware of it, they won't care enough to exert a competitive pressure against the stores using it. Especially if it gets widespread quickly. That doesn't mean it's right to do this, though. A law banning this sort of surveillance would probably have some decent popular support, but it'll never happen because people don't care enough to make it an issue, and the shitty v

            • But lets be real, 99% of the population could not care less that someone is watching them shop and as such the stores really don't care that you don't like it.

              You brought up the same argument before, so I'm again going to respond with "I don't give a flying crap how most people feel. This is idiotic no matter how many idiots are okay with it."

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mdwh2 (535323)

          I'll start my own store, but what good does that do me if all the malls are owned by private companies? My customers will be subject to their rules whether I want them to or not, because they have to walk through the mall to reach my store.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Your ignoring that loss of privacy for "the consumer" is an externalized cost to the "mall market" and therefore surveillance will need to be implemented by all malls in order to compete. Mall A sets up cameras and Mall B doesn't. Mall A directly improves its profit margin because it reduces shoplifting and more/better stores want to open in Mall A. Mall B loses business because it doesn't have the better stores/variety. Your strategy would only work if privacy were forced to be an internalized cost through
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      IANAAL (I am not an Australian Lawyer) but I believe shopping centres and other retail premises are designated as public places. Because of this people can not be excluded for arbitrary reasons. If this was not the case it would be possible to throw people out for any reason at all (possibly in contravention of anti-discrimination laws) and say it was because we thought they looked like a criminal.

      I think the best Westfield can do in this case is follow the suspects around either physically or on CCTV and w

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Peaker (72084)

      With this attitude, anyone wanting to keep their privacy and basic rights is pretty much stuck at home -- with a tin foil hat.

    • by mdwh2 (535323)

      In which case, there's a problem if vast swathes of open land are actually privately owned, with no way of public access.

      If a shop owner doesn't want me in his shop, fine. But if the land owner who grants access to all the shops decides to refuse me permission onto the land - even though the shops might want my custom - that's a problem. It's no better than a troll stopping people walking across his bridge - even if it is his bridge, it's a problem if all your bridges are owned by trolls.

      There are various w

    • by maxume (22995)

      Still, it seems like a law requiring prominent notification of active computerized surveillance would be a good thing (I see a massive difference between identifying and logging each shopper, just keeping tapes, or having human eyeballs doing the work (a typical human won't be nearly as tireless as the computer)).

      The language of the law might be a little prickly given that advanced compression does content analysis, but it should be the problem of the party choosing to do the surveillance.

  • Media bias? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:35AM (#30385646)

    Wow. I'm not familiar with "Sydney morning herald" so I'm not sure what I was expecting, but they certainly didn't meet it.

    Half: "Police say this is great!"
    Maybe a third: "Besides, it's already being used and you didn't even know it, so it can't be bad!"

    And then: "Some academic loon has his panties in a twist over this"

    Quickly followed by: "Another professor... of various more important things... says it should be used more though."

    Australia often makes me feel better about the US. Right now, they're making me realize that as bad as Fox news is, it could get somewhat worse.

    • Re:Media bias? (Score:4, Informative)

      by TapeCutter (624760) * on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:02AM (#30385746) Journal
      The SMH is one of our better rags, however like all newspapers it does print some syndicated stories [google.com.au] verbatim. It also has the occasional wacko in the editorial pages to stir up contraversy (I'm looking at you Ms Devine).

      The SMH is owned by the Fairfax group, funny you should mention Fox News because Howden [zoominfo.com] is actually employed by News Corp, not Fairfax.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lbft (950835)

      I don't know what planet you're from, but this seems to me a fairly unremarkable canvassing of opinions on the topic without editorial comment. The format of the article goes:

      Introduction
      Police opinion
      Westfield uses some words and says nothing
      Australian Privacy Foundation opinion
      Contextualisation
      Professor Maciej Henneberg's opinion

      Just because you don't agree with the opinions doesn't make the article biased, it makes those people wrong in your view (and in mine). But you can't deny that their opinions are

    • Murdoch is Australian-born.

  • Are we talkin' paparazzi photos here, then? I'm sure the celebs Down Under will really appreciate being outed in public like that when they're just tryin' to blend in!

  • by xmundt (415364) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:58AM (#30385718)

    Greetings and salutations...
              Here is an interesting study that indicates that the chances of a false positive are fairly great, especially in a chaotic setting:
    http://www.rand.org/pubs/documented_briefings/DB396/DB396.pdf

              One might wave this off as inconsequential, until one gets a security escort in the mall because their face happens to resemble that of a pedophile or thief.
              Automating enforcement is a tricky thing, and, should be approached with great caution. We should not hop on the train simply because it is new, and shiny, and a sales person has taken us out for a multiple martini lunch!

              Of course, this is a USA-centric view, where at least we have the historical documents that are SUPPOSED to protect the citizens against abuse of one's civil rights by the authorities... You folks out in the rest of the world...well....learn from the fact that over the past eight years or so, that, in spite of the Constitution, America has taken many large and troubling steps towards a Kafa-esque police state.
              Pleasant dreams.
              Dave Mundt

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by TapeCutter (624760) *
      "Automating enforcement is a tricky thing"

      This is automated survailence. We are working on a robo mall cop but as you say, it's a tricky thing. The prototype blew away our board of directors and then threw itself down the stairwell. Of course the upside to that minor glitch is we now have more money to spend on the robots.
  • by S3D (745318) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:59AM (#30385726)
    Video Surveillance is Useless [uwa.edu.au] Presentation from prominent computer vision researcher, inventor of phase correlation method [wikipedia.org] It basically saying, that on current tech level video surveillance is useless for face identification. What follow is that it's actually harmful, due to wrong impression of it's reliability.
  • by jcr (53032) <jcr@@@mac...com> on Thursday December 10, 2009 @04:23AM (#30385820) Journal

    One false positive can ruin your whole day, week, or life.

    -jcr

    • by Tibia1 (1615959)
      And all the while the only thing they want to fix are the false negatives (missing the real bad guys).
    • Oh, I'm sure there's some law some where you inadvertently broke that they can fine or arrest you for.

      Only criminals shop at places without facial recognition.

    • No, they're counting on the false positives. Then you get a coupon for 10% off anything in the mall.
  • ...but would welcome any move to improve security and technology in the area.

    Then let’s just kill all life in the area and fill it with self-replicating evolving robots! That is a 100% sure shot to improve security and technology.

    You said *any* move!
    Don’t lie and act as if that was not exactly the direction you were thinking of.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In the UK at least nobody can arrest or detain you unless they have reasonable grounds to do so. The fact that their system sounds an alarm is unlikely to be sufficient grounds if that alarm often gives false positives (goes off when no offence has been committed). If they do detain you and you have not committed a crime you can sue and will probably win the case.

    From time to time a security guard asks if they can look in my bag because an alarm has gone off at the exit. If they ask politely and make it cle

  • I'm not a fan for these types of things in general, with the standard privacy concerns most people are listing. On the other side of it, my wife was a manager for several years at a retail chain at the mall, and they often had problems with shoplifting given the size of their products (bath and, you know, body products). They were required to try and maintain as little theft as possible of course, but they were given no support up the chain and were not allowed to confront/ask/suggest that someone was doi
  • Face Recognition is one of those great sale pitches from the same guy that also tries to hack cloud computing to you. This post just tells me, there are still fools out there that fall for it.
  • "The identification system matches images captured by surveillance cameras to an existing database of faces." ... and the whole thing is meant to fail.

    The system will create a huge amount of false positives which in turn will make a lot of innocent customers annoyed and cause them to never come back. On the other hand it is quite likely that it will not catch any of the people in the database. Which will be an epic fail!

    • There is a large shopping mall in Birmingham, UK that uses face recognition. It also uses RFID and collects details of who these people are when they make a transaction using a credit or debit card. System copes with over 1 million in footfall each week.

  • And I bet the mall owners state "privacy" as the reason and can't see the irony. Classy.

  • Given: Imagine a world were every personal movement is tracked by computer. Every transaction is recorded. Every communication, both written and spoken, is recorded. Everywhere, 7/24.

    I think this was attempted by two governments already, Soviet Union, and Third Reich. Google Search of these two governments brings up nothing current in this millenium. Google Maps shows no location of these sovereign states. Grandpa says he knows about 'em, but doesn't want to talk about it; then he starts to get angr
  • Businesses are going to use this. If I had a retail business, I sure would in a heartbeat.

    If I caught a shoplifter in my store, and I had video surveillance of this person that included his face, I would enter his face into my facial-recognition system so that every time that "customer" came into my store in the future, I could give him an excellent, personal customer service experience by attending him closely every time he visited my store.

    Likewise, if I had video surveillance of my best customers' faces

  • Isn't this the one where Tom Cruise gets his eyes replaced with new ones to avoid being detected with retinal scans?

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