Microsoft provides Australian state police with facial recognition service for surveillance

Microsoft has announced that it will provide Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) police with facial recognition technology to accelerate state surveillance video analysis.

Older state police systems stored CCTV footage (and other forms of evidence needed for investigations) on local servers, requiring time-consuming manual reviews by police.

The new system uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to send footage to the “cloud” (in this case Microsoft’s own server) to identify the suspect.

According to Microsoft, there was a specific case in which NSW police collected 14,000 CCTVs for murder and assault investigations and analyzed what would normally take weeks or months in just five hours.

“Within a few days, the detective then stitches together a timeline of events, movements, and interactions of the person of interest and overlays it on a geospatial platform to visualize the detective data and outline the evidence. We were able to assist in the preparation. The court, “says Microsoft. Press release..

The Epoch Times
Microsoft signboard in New York City, USA, March 13, 2020 (Photo courtesy of Jeenah Moon / Getty Images)

Gordon Dunsford, Chief Information Technology Officer at NSW State Police, said the process accelerated the investigation and allowed police officers to focus on front-line police operations.

“You can use computer vision to search for objects, vehicles, and positions, and even recognize a backpack that someone is carrying on their back or even a tie worn by a gentleman,” says Dunsford. “The investigation has been greatly speeded up and has helped the police get results in a fraction of the time.”

“Computer vision” includes data collected from CCTVs, police body cams, laptops, mobile devices and dash cams.

The news of the sale in Australia came after Microsoft had previously confirmed with Amazon and IBM that it would not sell facial recognition technology to US police until strong federal regulations on the use of facial recognition technology were enacted. I did.

The Australian Commission on Human Rights (AHRC) has released the 2021 edition. Final report on human rights and technology Last week, the government recommended banning facial recognition and other biometric technologies until the federal and state governments introduced regulatory legislation.

“Australian law should provide stronger, clearer and more targeted human rights protection for the development and use of biometric technologies, including facial recognition,” the report said. “Until these protections are implemented, the Commission recommends suspending the use of biometric techniques, including facial recognition, in high-risk areas.”

The Epoch Times
CCTV camera mounted on a concrete wall. (Stock Snap / Pixa Bay)

In particular, the report focuses on the risks posed to the right to personal privacy and the potential for racial prejudice, which may increase the risk of injustice and human rights abuses.

“This inevitably affects personal privacy and can encourage harmful surveillance. In addition, certain biometric technologies tend to have higher error rates, especially for certain races and other groups. Yes, “says the report.

In response to these concerns, Microsoft said the new arrangement was in line with their promise because NSW police did not purchase the technology. Instead, all facial recognition analysis was done by Microsoft itself. Will run on the server.

Samantha Floreani, program leader for Digital Rights Watch, a non-profit charity focused on raising awareness of Australian digital rights, said Microsoft’s decision was dishonest and contrary to Microsoft’s commitment.

“Several major tech companies recognized the dangers of facial recognition technology and withdrew their technology from law enforcement in 2020, including Microsoft,” Floreani told Epoch Times. “When you see them turn around and partner with NSW Police, you can see that their commitment is dishonest.”

Floreani noted that the NSW police decision prior to the AHRC report indicated that it would “ignore community security and human rights law.”

“In the face of growing international consensus that technologies such as facial recognition and large-scale image classification cannot be used ethically in the context of crackdowns, Microsoft’s press releases are at the forefront of ethics. It is designed around. ” ..

“These technologies give law enforcement agencies intolerable power with little transparency or accountability,” Floreani said.

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