Europe on Mega Facial Recognition System: But will It Stop Crimes?
The concern is whether this facial recognition system can prevent crimes in the future in Europe or not!
Crimes show no signs of decline in the world. At the same time, biometric technology is also expanding more than ever before. One might wonder what exactly is the link between the two. Europe shows the connection. In a recent move, some countries in Europe have entered into a pact to develop a mega International Face Recognition System (IFRS) as part of data sharing to facilitate the detection of criminals and control crimes. It is a cross-border system, falling under the Prüm agreement, which is supposed to prevent criminals from escaping to another country from the one in which the crimes have been committed. Databases of fingerprints, DNA, and so forth have been existing for some time but the facial recognition system is a new item for “more modern and sophisticated” detection methods in policing. But things are not going to be that easy for the sponsors of the system. Apart from the increasing criticisms that will lead to surveillance and violation of human rights, there is another crucial question involved: will it effectively prevent crimes from taking place?
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It does not require much brainstorming to understand that the system is very much dependent on algorithms. In the past, law enforcement agencies in European countries (and elsewhere) have made wrong identification, leading to a host of problems. One realizes that with biometric technology algorithms being at the base of the IFRS the number of errors is supposed to be less. But not exactly so in all cases for facial recognition system. For instance, a US government study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (Nist) tested 189 algorithms from 99 developers, including Intel, Microsoft, Toshiba, and Chinese firms Tencent and DiDi Chuxing to conclude that facial recognition system algorithms are far less accurate at identifying African-American and Asian faces compared to Caucasian faces. It has also been found that African-American females were even more likely to be misidentified. Algorithms in the Nist study were tested on two types of error: i) false positives: software wrongly considers that photos of two different individuals show the same person; ii) false negatives: where software fails to match two photos that show the same person.
Such instances lead to the question of whether new biometric technologies can be relied upon in such sensitive cases as crime detection. With European lawmakers from as many as twenty-seven countries coming together to moot the IFRS proposal under European Commission, the police of all these countries are being ready for cooperation, and the Europol, the European Law Enforcement agency being the proposed facilitator, the IFRS may be a good mix of better automation and more intense physical organization vis-à-vis crimes. But the question regarding its capacity to end crime, posed at the outset, remains in Europe.
Psychologists tend to relate incidents of crimes to the complex configuration of certain mental traits and external forces of the person committing the crime at a particular point in time. There is not yet any authentic theory that asserts that technological intervention and up-gradation reduce crime substantially. Even assuming that new biometric technology would reach its highest level of refinement and efficiency, it will not be wise to argue that it will lead to the prevention of crimes. So, the IFRS may cause more efficient detection of criminals but it cannot magically make a ‘crime-free’ Europe.