Brazil Using Facial Recognition Biometrics at 2014 World Cup

facial recognition is protecting World Cup 2014 fans

Brazil is using facial recognition at the 2014 World Cup for safety and security

The following post was written by Tanvir Ahmed, SEO Executive with M2SYS Technology

The whole world is watching as the FIFA 2014 World Cup is being held in Brazil at eighteen locations throughout the country. FIFA 2014 offers much more for Brazil than simply athletic entertainment because of their rich and varied sporting history in the game.

The Brazilian government started preparations for this much awaited and world renowned event years ago and it is the second time the country is host country (last time it was held in 1950). Thirty two countries will be competing in the event, the first time the tournament will be held in South America since 1978.

Security issues in Brazil

Following the announcement that the country would be hosting the tournament, Brazilian sports minister Aldo Rebelo admitted the 2014 World Cup might face some serious security issues as more than 3.7 million (600,000 international fans and three million Brazilians) people are expected to travel throughout Brazil in the 2014 World Cup season.

Riots rocked Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana Beach district last month and fears about safety for thousands of football fans visiting Brazil were heightened by the fatal shooting of a man during a clash with police close to the England team hotel in São Paulo.

In fact, robberies that lead to homicide have hit a nine-year high in São Paulo.

Planned security measures include facial recognition biometrics

The Brazilian government has invested over $900 million to take adequate security measures so the tournament can be one of the most protected sports events in history. FIFA Secretary General Jérôme Valcke promised “the highest level of security you can imagine” will be put in place during the competition.

Investment in security technology include facial recognition systems and unmanned robots which have  already been deployed in all world cup stadiums to support an integrated security plan  developed to gain information from several sources about a documented watch list of troublemakers, hooligans, and potential terrorists.

Facial recognition

Facial recognition technology has already proven to help improve security and protect fans at events as large as those attending the World Cup. The Brazilian government has already purchased facial recognition cameras capable of capturing 400 facial images per second to store them in a central database of up to 13 million faces.

They have also deployed video security systems at stadiums in preparation for the FIFA world cup. The set up includes over 250 IP security cameras, operated through a video management system with integration to the building management system, as well as ticketing access control.

Whenever a fan enters the arena, their ticket is indexed with a picture taken by the surveillance system, to enable facial recognition identification if it’s needed.  Recognition is facilitated through a powerful back end facial recognition identification algorithm.

Unmanned robots

The Brazilian government also purchased 30 security robots previously used by the United States armed forces and some other large military forces in the world to improve public safety during the tournament. It costs nearly $3.5 million each for those small unmanned ground vehicles equipped with ‘Robocop-style’ glasses with face recognition cameras which are capable of providing surveillance, bomb removal, and other law-enforcement missions.

These multi-rolled bots have already proven useful for a variety of law enforcement applications in many countries, such as the inspection of potentially dangerous areas and objects, the removal of suspicious devices, and the detection of chemical and explosive agents.

The Aftermath

Face recognition technology might reduce the security threat in World Cup since a face is undeniably connected to its owner except in the case of identical twins. Faces are nontransferable and the system can then compare scans to records stored in a central or local database or even on cloud based database.

Law enforcement agencies in many countries have already started using facial recognition technology to identify criminals. Because it is widely using as a crime fighting tool, businesses are trying to expand the use this technology also for more practical applications which include employee and customer identification. But the question is, is facial recognition ready for the masses?

Conclusion

The Brazilian military will also operate Hermes 450 drones (unmanned surveillance aircraft) which will be on the lookout for any suspicious activity during the tournament. As the world watches Brazil augment its security efforts with the use of facial recognition biometrics, it’s just matter of time to see  whether this new technology will prove to be effective in the effort to increase security and protect fans.

April #biometricchat to Discuss #Biometrics and Mobile Market (04/12 at 11 a.m. EST)

Bioemtrics and mobile devices

April #biometricchat - biometrics and the moblie market

When: April 12, 2012

11:00 am EST, 8:00 am PST, 16:00 pm BST, 17:00 pm (CEST), 23:00 pm (SGT), 0:00 (JST)

Where: tweetchat.com (hashtag #biometricchat)

What: Tweet chat on biometrics and mobile devices

Topics: Viable biometric modalities for mobile devices, security advantages of using biometrics on mobile devices, public acceptance of biometrics on mobile devices, interoperability of biometrics with mobile devices, the future of biometrics and the mobile market

April’s #biometricchat will explore the topic of biometrics and the mobile market. With some projecting the mobile phone biometrics market will soar to $161 million by 2015, conditions appear to be set for the technology to move from a luxury to a necessary security for smart mobile devices as more manufacturers explore using biometrics as a feature to create a competitive advantage over their rivals. Heavyweights like Google and Apple have already developed biometric identification solutions to work with their operating systems in different modalities like facial and voice recognition. In addition, Research in Motion (RIM) recently unveiled an iris camera built into their Blackberry 7 smartphones, the first of its kind in mobile market and a modality that is widely considered the most accurate of any available.

We are happy to announce that Raúl Jareño with Mobbeel, a biometric mobile solution provider headquartered in Cáceres, Spain, will be our guest on the chat, bringing his expertise and insight to the discussion and insight into the present and future of biometrics and mobile devices. We will be discussing:

1. What are some of the most common biometric modalities for mobile devices and what changes can we expect in the future?
2. What security advantages does biometrics offer to mobile devices over other authentication features?
3. Are there any limitations of biometrics with mobile devices?
4. How reliable is the technology?
5. What can we expect to see in the future?

Just in case you are interested in participating but are new to Tweet chats, please read this post which outlines the instructions and procedures. We hope that you will join us for the discussion, and please spread the word among your colleagues and friends.

Do you have any questions that you would like to ask Raúl? Please send them to: jtrader@m2sys.com or come prepared with your questions, comments and feedback on Thursday, February the twelfth at 11am EST.

Face Recognition: Improved Benefit? Or Erosion of Privacy?

Is facial recognition intrusive in our society?

Facial recognition

The following is a guest post from Carl Gohringer, founder of Allevate Limited (www.allevate.com)

A Surveillance Society?

I sat in Heathrow waiting for an early morning departure for a business trip. Sipping my coffee, I look casually around trying to spot the cameras. They’re cleverly hidden. Am I being watched? Doubtful. Am I being recorded? Almost certainly.

This is a daily fact of life for most Londoners. It’s widely known that our city is one of the most heavily recorded in the world; a fact that is consistently debated and often criticized. Yet for all the discussion, the fact remains. We don’t like it, but we accept it. Why? Personally, my true dislike is more of the necessity of this fact rather than the fact itself.

Carol Midgley wrote an excellent opinion piece (The Times, Sat 27th August, 2011) entitled “I’ll pick Big Brother over a hoody every time”. I recommend a read. Though clearly biased, and seemingly designed to stoke the debate with anti-CCTV campaigners, her conclusion was simple: In the wake of the London riots, the privacy-versus-necessity debate of CCTV is now all but dead. Do I agree? Let me come back to this.

Face Recognition and CCTV

Enter Biometrics. Face recognition technology to be precise. This technology, along with the wider field of video analytics, is set to transform CCTV surveillance. Video analytics is arguably a nascent technology, but face recognition on the other hand is here. Ready to deploy. Now. A recent study by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)demonstrated that the accuracy achieved by the first place vendor (NEC) can provide clear and measurable benefits to a range of applications, including surveillance.

It seems that every new technology brings a realisation of new benefits and efficiencies, countered by a plethora of malicious uses of the technology by the less desirable elements of our global society, quickly followed by counter-measures and protections. This is a saga that we are all already familiar with in our daily lives. Examples range from the severe and extreme of nuclear medicine versus atomic weapons, through to online credit-card shopping versus financial identity theft. I’ve recently had a credit card used for over £3,500 of illegal transactions. Though this incident was highly inconvenient and disruptive to my life, I did not hesitate to accept a replacement card. Not to do so would have unacceptably disenfranchised me from modern society.

Back to face recognition. It hasn’t taken long for business minded technology companies to devise a whole range of new uses of this technology, all focused on delivering bottom line business benefit. Almost as quickly arrive the cries of the privacy advocates. I’ve been reading with interest the sudden explosion in main stream news over the past few months highlighting new uses of face recognition, while very carefully considering the concerns vociferously raised by the technology’s opponents. A key fact often cited is that the technology is not 100% accurate. Even an excellent identification rate of 97% can produce a significant number of false identifications and / or missed identifications in a large sample population.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

Public Safety and Policing

While I sat here in the terminal waiting for my flight, I’ve already grudgingly accepted that images of me sipping my coffee are almost undoubtedly being recorded. I may not be aware, however, that when I passed through security my photograph was taken. This wasn’t immediately obvious or openly advertised, but it happened. Shortly, my photograph will be taken again when I board my aircraft and compared to the photograph taken at security. International and domestic passengers share a common departure area, and this is done to ensure boarding cards aren’t swapped, thereby potentially enabling an international passenger to transit through to a domestic airport and bypass immigration controls. On a 1:1 verification, false matches are very low. If I’m a legitimate passenger, my concern is that the two photographs do not match, for which the worst case scenario is inconvenience.

Perhaps the borders agency is also comparing my photograph against a known watchlist of suspect individuals. This nature of deployment is usually used to enhance existing procedures, and not replace them. The system will provide increased security, in turn further protecting my safety while flying. I’m OK with this. Of course, there is also the prospect of misidentifying benign travellers. Though unavoidable, as long as the number of false matches are kept sufficiently low to ensure the cost of dealing with these exceptions doesn’t obliterate the benefit realised from the system, it can be argued that the greater good justifies the inconvenience faced by the occasional innocent passenger while their true identity is verified.

Upon my arrival at my destination, I may very well be offered the opportunity to use my new e-passport to speed through immigration at one of the many shiny automatic e-Gates springing into operation. In the early stages these definitely were a great benefit, allowing me to march past the long queues of travellers and expedite my passage through the airport. No complaint from me. As long as false matches are lower than what is achieved by a live border guard (which many studies suggest they are), then security should be improved. And false matches only apply to illegal passengers travelling on a false or stolen passport. Exceptions generated by valid travellers who do not match with their passport will generate some inconvenience by necessitating they speak to a live border guard. As e-gates become more commonplace, I predict I’ll just be queuing in front of an automatic barrier instead of a manned immigration booth. However, the efficiencies achieved should enable the border guards to concentrate on more intelligence-led activities, rather than simple rote inspection of passports, thereby increasing security and putting my taxes to more efficient use.

As I move through the airport, or for that matter in any public location such as a stadium or railway station, law enforcement authorities may be using my captured image to search against a database of suspects. Does this trouble me? Let’s look at a couple of scenarios.

I’m already being recorded. If I were to commit a crime, then it is likely that the video would be retrieved and officers would try to identify me. This is already happening and I doubt anybody would argue that this is an invasion of privacy. If face recognition technology can assist them with this arduous and tedious task, perhaps by automatically trying to match my face against databases of known offenders, and saving countless hours of police time, I’m all for it. Too bad for the criminal.

(I was incensed by the meaningless violence and destruction demonstrated during the recent riots in London. Newspaper reports have indicated that the UK’s police will be examining CCTV footage for years to come in their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice. I am absolutely in favour of anything that can be done to expedite this process and save police time.)

But as a law-abiding citizen carrying on with my own business, how do I feel about having my face automatically captured and compared against a watchlist database of “individuals of interest”? There is potential to cause disruption to an individual’s life or place them under undue suspicion if they are falsely identified. That my face is being actively processed rather than just recorded gives more cause to pause and consider.

Having done this, I am prepared to accept this use case, if the technology is operating at a sufficient level of accuracy to ensure that the chances of being misidentified while conducting my daily activities remains low. I also expect the technology to be deployed wisely in situations where there is demonstrable benefit to public safety, such as at transport hubs, large gatherings, public events or areas of critical national infrastructure.

Most people already accept that the reality of the world today necessitates certain infringements on our liberties. The introduction of technology is a key tool in the fight against crime. No system is perfect, and the potential for an undesirable outcome of a system should not always result in the abolishment of that system. Few would argue, for example, to abolish our judicial systems and close our prisons to eliminate the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. Similarly, the benefits to public safety from face recognition are too great to ignore, though we must continuously strive to minimise the false identifications.

I agree with Ms. Midgley on this one.

Commercial Applications

Most criticism that I have been reading in the press in the past view months appears to be levelled at the widening application of face recognition in business related or commercial applications, not with public safety.

My flight is about to board, so let’s continue my journey through the terminal. As I saunter to my gate, my attention is caught by an impressive advertising display; a multi-plasma video wall. It was the amazing technology that caught my attention rather than the advert itself. Just as I’m about to glance away, the sunlit beach and blue ocean depicting the under 30’s surfing holiday fades away, to be replaced by a two-for-one spectacle offer, followed by a distinguished gentleman telling me how easy it was for him to “wash that grey away”.

As I self-consciously stroke the hair at my temples, I wonder: Was this a mere co-incidence? Multiple vendors delivering solutions for advertising have announced technology that can count the number of people watching an advert at any given time, and even estimate their age, dwell time, sex and race. While providing invaluable information for the advertiser, it can also allow them to dynamically change the adverts in real time to more appropriately target the demographic of the current viewer(s). Recent reports in the Los Angeles Times (21st August 2011) suggests that this is already widely deployed in Japan, and is being considered by the likes of Adidas and Kraft in the UK and the US.

While this is not technically face recognition, it is still worth noting as much of what I have been reading has been lumping the two technologies together. The key consideration here is that this form of technology is not actually identifying anybody, or extracting personally identifiable information. This doesn’t bother me in the least. Businesses have always tried to use whatever edge they can to more tightly tailor their message to their customer’s specific needs and wants. It may even benefit me by alerting me to more relevant products or services.

What if, on the other hand, the advertiser had negotiated an arrangement with another organisation, for example a social networking site such as Facebook. If they supplied them with an image of my face, along with information on which portion of the advert caught my attention, Facebook might be able to identify me from its database of photographs, enabling them to harvest valuable information about me. While I can see this would present a huge commercial advantage to them, and whomever they chose to sell this information on to, I can only hope that the commercial damage from the backlash of incensed users would outweigh the gain.

If I have some leisure time while on my business trip, there will doubtlessly be many activities at my destination to occupy me. I may have a quiet drink in a bar, or perhaps take a punt at the tables in the local casino. And yes, face recognition technology is being used even in these places. It’s been reported that bars and clubs are using gender and age distinguishing cameras to count people in and out, and make this information available over mobile phone apps. The youth of today can now determine before they set out which establishment holds their best chance of success. While I am well beyond having any use for this particular application, I can see how this may catch on in certain demographics of society. Any reputable establishment should clearly display such technology is in use and should make no attempt to harvest or make available any personally identifying information. Are all establishments reputable?

More concerning to me is the increasing use of face recognition by social network sites. Both Google and Facebook are actively exploring uses. Automatic tagging of photographs being uploaded to Facebook is already occurring. Being inadvertently photographed while on my business trip and automatically tagged when the photographer uploads it does not appeal to me, no matter how innocuous my activities at the time may happen to be.

Recent studies published by Carnegie Melon University demonstrating the potential to use large databases of photographs on social networking sites to glean confidential information should also be a cause for concern. The younger generation of today appear more and more willing to share intimate and private details online, without any thought (in my view) of the longer term or wider ramifications of doing so. This is an issue that is much larger than face recognition, but I can understand the worry that face recognition can help to tie it all together.

Improved Benefit or Erosion of Privacy?

When I first entered the biometrics field, I was attracted by the “neatness” factor of the technology, and of the potential for it to deliver benefits to society. I have to admit I paid scant attention to privacy concerns. Over time, as the voices of privacy advocates grew louder and more numerous, I started to listen and then to actively seek out their opinions. I am still a firm believer in this amazing technology, and endeavour to play an active role in its application for the positive transformation of society. However, I am grateful for the messages and insight provided by these campaigners; they have definitely transformed my thinking, and have made me consider much more carefully the application of biometrics.

From a law-enforcement and public safety viewpoint, face recognition holds great potential to increase the security of our society. By its very nature, our government holds power over us and our society, which is why it is our responsibility to choose our governments carefully. We have no choice but to hold a certain level of trust and faith in our law-enforcement organisations. Our society today contains more checks and balances than ever before, and our politicians our more in-tune with and responsive to the public mood. If this faith breaks down, then so does society.

In commercial applications, I also believe there is the potential for significant benefit to be realised from face recognition to both the consumer and businesses, but I am more concerned about the potential for abuse. To a certain level, the market will decide if the application of the technology is appropriate or not. Ventures people don’t like will fail. However we cannot always rely on market forces, and it is our collective responsibility to speak out when the need arises. Though it often lags behind, over time legislation keeps up with the advancement of technology. As our society changes with technical innovation, so too will the rules we collectively decide to govern our society. We will settle into an equilibrium reflecting the needs and views of all. But there will be a learning curve, and we will make mistakes along the way. That’s how society works.

So, does face recognition represent an improved benefit, or an erosion of privacy? I suggest it has the potential to be both. It is everybody’s responsibility to ensure the benefit is worth the price paid. I absolutely believe we must have both the proponents of this technology and the advocators of privacy; we all have a role to play to decide how face recognition will be applied over time.

The abolishment of either the technology or the voices of those monitoring its use and advocating our privacy would be to the detriment of society.

Final Thought

Just before I board my flight, let me leave you with this final thought. Imagine for a moment that a loved one of yours has come to harm. The authorities can use face recognition to aide in their recovery, and / or to ensure that justice is done. Are you concerned with privacy?

As founder of Allevate Limited (allevate.com), Carl’s focuses on the promotion and marketing of large-scale and global identification infrastructure projects using biometric technology.  

Is Biometric Technology An Unnecessary Intrusion Or A Promising Marketing Tool?

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Recently, Planet Biometrics posted a story entitled “Biometrics Cruise into the Disney Dream” that described how facial recognition biometric technology is used throughout their new cruise ship in “moving art” and personalized photography.  “Moving art” is interactive art spread throughout the ship that contains moving pictures which are cued to play once a passenger stands in front of the screen.  Facial recognition is used to recognize the person that is standing in front of the screen so that the same interactive video does not play twice.  In addition, Disney uses facial recognition technology to help sort and consolidate the reams of photos that staff photographers snap of individuals and families as they enjoy their time on the ship and Castaway Cay Island.  Facial recognition biometrics saves a lot of time and creates efficiencies for passengers to find the photos that are exclusive to themselves and their families.

In case you missed it, at the 2011 National Retail Federation “Retail’s Big Show” in New York, Kraft Foods debuted a state of the art kiosk which can instantly scan a passerby, determine their gender and age group, then suggest which food products might be an attractive meal idea.  It even goes so far as to allow a customer to scan their loyalty card and search their past ordering history to hone their choices even more.  Wow.  Pretty cool.

Which brings us to the subject of our blog post.  With the increasing sophistication of technology that surrounds us and the use of biometric identification to help customize marketing messages to consumers, is biometrics becoming a gigantic intrusion into our personal lives or a savvy tool for companies to personalize their message?

Big brands would argue that they are simply utilizing biometrics in this capacity as a means to engage customers by tailoring a solution or offering that is relevant and timely.  They vehemently deny storing anyone’s image or sharing biometric information with anyone.  On the other side of the coin, privacy advocates worry (and perhaps rightfully so) that companies are indeed storing these images and as biometrics becomes more and more prevalent for identification in many different vertical markets, the protection of an individual’s biometric template information is not secure and regulated by a set of national standards.

Valid arguments can be made for both sides of the fence.  Expect to see biometrics popping up more often in companies’ efforts to engage with their customers and to help enhance their in-store or entertainment experience.

What’s your take?  Should we allow companies to use biometric technology as a means to personalize their marketing message to consumers for entertainment or direct sales?  Do privacy advocates have a convincing argument when they question the use of biometrics in this capacity?  Please share your thoughts in our comments section below.