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Police fine pedestrian for disorderly behaviour after he tried to cover his face (dailymail.co.uk)
283 points by mlmartin on May 16, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 180 comments

> The force had put out a statement saying “anyone who declines to be scanned will not necessarily be viewed as suspicious”.

That's why it's called "erosion of rights" and not "outright nullification of rights". Unfortunately, it works, and it's entirely unsurprising that face surveillance will become normalized.

It's not everyday I quote Ted Kaczynski, but I think he had a valid point when, in his manifesto, he theorise that no amount of regulation is capable of making us safe from technological abuse.

125 - 135 from: https://www.josharcher.uk/static/files/2018/01/Industrial_So....

> It is not possible to make a LASTING compromise between technology and freedom, because technology is by far the more powerful social force and continually encroaches on freedom through REPEATED compromises.

> A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on ... In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves FORCED to use it.

> While technological progress AS A WHOLE continually narrows our sphere of freedom, each new technical advance CONSIDERED BY ITSELF appears to be desirable.

> Another reason why technology is such a powerful social force is that, within the context of a given society, technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed. Once a technical innovation has been introduced, people usually become dependent on it, so that they can never again do without it, unless it is replaced by some still more advanced innovation.

> No social arrangements, whether laws, institutions, customs or ethical codes, can provide permanent protection against technology. History shows that all social arrangements are transitory; they all change or break down eventually. But technological advances are permanent within the context of a given civilization.

The issue is that, ultimately and generally, the government does what a majority of people wants (or at least tolerates). Why are we tolerating this loss of freedoms? The only answer I can arrive at is "because it doesn't inconvenience people enough to do something about it".

Protesting against something takes a lot of energy, and inconveniencing you only a little (or very much but extremely rarely) doesn't make most people's list of priorities.

The way I see it is that our systems became so complex that we lost sight of what's good for us, as individual and as a group.

Most people are too busy to even acknowledge these issues. When you're barely able to financially take care of your family or when you're too deep in the consumerism game you don't have time for these high level questions.

People are more outraged about the latest episode of Game of Thrones than they will ever be about the current state of humanity and its impact on Nature, the erosion of privacy and freedom, &c.

> The way I see it is that our systems became so complex that we lost sight of what's good for us, as individual and as a group.

I feel ask though it's more that our systems became so complex that no one, let alone the lay in that specific tech, are even capable of understanding the consequences and what we're loosing.

It's not unreasonable for a lay person to be told about facial recognition and think "well, it's just doing a better job than what a cop would have done anyway" without realizing that it often does worse than a cop statistically and that unlike a cop, all the cameras can be coordinated so that your movements are stored indefinitely and viewable by anyone, something that couldn't happen when a person was looking at people on their beat.

Ditto with online tracking, it's the extent of the ramifications that people don't think/know about. Even then, there are no alternatives that provide the simplicity of communication that Facebook does, so even after something like Cambridge Analytica, most people don't really have options to move away from without completely changing how they socialize, and to be honest, most people don't understand just how much information they leak even still.

>[. . .] no one, let alone the lay in that specific tech, are even capable of understanding the consequences and what we're loosing.

This 100%. Living deep in flyover country, I have heard the sentence in your second paragraph from several people.

And do you know who I blame?

Creators and marketers of AI/ML. People on this site are included in that list.

They are being lauded as the saviors of humanity. Think of all we can learn and do with AI/ML. Nevermind that they're just sufficiently large datasets with sufficiently complicated math problems. Also nevermind where that data is coming from or what it contains.

You won't have to worry about online shopping, because we'll be able to get you your stuff faster! Isn't that great?!

In flyover country, deep in flyover country, away from huge cities, away from tech, people do not understand what data is out there about them and what is being done with it. That is the biggest problem with all of this. They literally don't understand why it's a problem, let alone the nuance of the problems.

> Why are we tolerating this loss of freedoms? The only answer I can arrive at is "because it doesn't inconvenience people enough to do something about it".

Throughout recorded history, people have usually been "ruled" by some form of king, warrior, aristocracy, etc. But it's not like one leader could really hurt or kill every single person in a large society, so the people as a collective shouldn't really need to follow his orders. So why do they?

The simplest answer is, there are a series of trade-offs made when following a leader (or government). You have less autonomy, but you may gain some benefits, such as security, order, direction, and the possibility that they might accomplish some of your wishes. Of course, if the leader controls an army, you could say fear is a big motivator to follow their wishes, but then why does the army follow the leader? Same thing: security, order, direction, accomplishment of wishes, etc.

We all make tradeoffs to live in a society. The loss of most freedoms isn't actually a huge impact to your ability to live your life; even in a highly repressive society, you can still eat, sleep, socialize, which is all most animals need. The idea that your society might be secretly abusing its citizens is troubling, but it's not as bad as, say, a food shortage, or waves of crime. So on the whole, mass surveillance is a minor inconvenience, and not something worth flooding to the polls (or storming the gates).

==Why are we tolerating this loss of freedoms?==

Fear. Why do people think it is unsafe to walk outside when statistics show us we have never been safer? Why are people afraid of public places when crime is far more likely to happen in the home?

We need to go deeper though. The decrease in perceived safety is, at least in part, due to 24/7 news reporting about violence, crime, terrorism, hate and generally negative topics. Which itself is due to progress in information technology and in the way we make money out of it. There is literally no benefit for the general public in this.

Don't get me wrong, you have all the reasons to fear these things if you live where these things happen, but I'd bet my left hand that most people in 1st world countries ever witness any kind of serious violence.

The book Fortress America [1] posits that, in America at least, it has been a long shifting of the fear from red to black. Basically, after USSR was defeated, we shifted more vigorously into a "law and order" society. Politicians and the media played up the threat (even though all data was showing a safer society) of gangs and "thugs".

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Fortress-America-Embraced-Abandoned-D...

Tech has also given us freedoms. It's just what people do with it. This world would be so easy if nobody was cheating or aggressing on anyone else. And it's not lile that because people are terrible. Most people in this world are immoral and/or idiotic. The average person is not enlightened, nor even genuinely motivated to helping their fellow if they gets nothing in return.

Now you are asking for not just good nature or enlightenment, but for something more... moral courage.

The sad part is the people who are will be lost forever as we march this ugly walk into the Grest Filters which consciousness seems to tend to do to itself.

The only way to get something like moral courage from the masses is to spread ideas into people's minds the same way religious leaders or propagandists do. People love crusaded and want to be important so will become a part of them.

Your question was well-answered by the quote you are replying to.

Put more succinctly: It is the full time job of law enforcement to use these tools to solve crimes. Even if literally everyone protests them next month, if you wait 10 years, people will have moved on with their lives, and it will be implemented anyway.

Here is a concrete example:

Back in high school, a holocaust survivor visited our class. We were told the fundamental difference between the US and Nazi germany was that in the US, you could travel without carrying papers (which meant that people could keep the inevitable failings of democracy in check, since privacy while traveling and meeting people basically implies freedom of assembly and press).

That difference no longer exists in the US in any practical way because technology has obsoleted the legal mechanism of “you can’t ask for my drivers license without probable cause”.

>That difference no longer exists in the US in any practical way because technology has obsoleted the legal mechanism of “you can’t ask for my drivers license without probable cause”.

Are you sure this is quite as absolute and one-way as you’re saying here? ID isn’t required by government to be driven, use public transport, fly on private aircraft, use boats, etc. Sure as a practical matter in the US non-car options are not nearly as powerful as in most first world countries, but that’s not a matter of law. And while technology helped create the current state of affairs, it can disrupt it too. The motivation for drivers licenses is a real one of public safety. If self-driving cars mean most people cease manual driving though, the need for licenses will cease as well (and also most of the typical suspicions and justifications police use to pull over a car). That may result in a significant clawback of travel privacy in some respects. Practical is not always the equivalent of legal long term is it?

> The motivation for drivers licenses is a real one of public safety.

If the true purpose of a drivers license was public safety there are surely a large number of people who wouldn't be permitted to operate a motor vehicle. Or at the very least we would be required to periodically prove our competency.

>If the true purpose of a drivers license was public safety there are surely a large number of people who wouldn't be permitted to operate a motor vehicle.

That's silly. Driving in America at least is a quasi-right: while not technically a right by law, as things stand the economy and much of society in the country would collapse if most adults were not able to drive. But at the same time driving is not natural and definitely represents real danger. So the law reflects a balance between these two competing interests, with safety concerns slowly getting pushed harder over time. Driving requirements are relatively forgiving, and removal is taken seriously. But there are a lot of laws and thinking around how to improve safety. The licensing process has become more of a ramp too, with many (all?) states having increasingly graduated licensing and some starting to have rechecks needed for the elderly. Licensing for non-necessity driving (commercial vehicles, motorbikes etc) sees a significant spike in requirements.

People very much care. In highschool I had a good friend hit and killed by a drunk driver while they were walking right near school, and I would strongly resent any putting down of how devastating that was for the family and our group. But "individualized mechanized arbitrary point to point transportation" is also very much critical, and with current technology that means "a human driving". It's very unfairly glib to impugn that society isn't trying to balance here. What is needed to radically change the status quo is to finish the car technology so that a human is not needed. Once that is the case and manual driving becomes a fun luxury I expect we'll see licensing requirements and training increase a great deal, looking more like what professional motor racers do. The converse from a privacy perspective is that no, many people will not bother to carry drivers licenses with them anymore, nor will they need to.

Generalized authentication is and should be an important role of government, so some form of ID will still matter. But in terms of needing to have it on you? No, I do not think that legal requirements around that will change. The "true purpose" of a drivers license is in fact trying to have some minimum level of competence and personal responsibility attached to the act of personally controlling a multi-ton pile of metal moving at high speeds.

>Why are we tolerating this loss of freedoms?

The press sold us out. They rolled up, told us they were the forth estate. People are busy so they outsourced their critical thinking about government to experts. The press then proceed to not give half a shit about civics.


This is inaccurate. Great strides in civil rights have been made through non-violent campaigns to change minds. We've had a slow, civil change to fighting our battles in the court of public opinion rather than on the dueling grounds.

Appeals to tradition aren't effective, we don't need to make the same mistakes as our ancestors.

Those strides made through nonviolent means are only feasible because the implied alternative of violent means.

Martin Luther King understood that his methods were viable only because they were much more palatable to people than those of Malcolm X for instance.

This isn't really true, a lot of the changes made by JFK and LBJ were in response to widespread rioting. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 was largely in response to the riots that happened after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

> The above is why there is a full-court press to ban guns in the USA.

I'm skeptical of this claim. I think many opponents of private gun ownership are motivated by concerns about their use for crimes against regular people, not because it lowers the ability to resist tyranny.

Are there documented, successful uprisings any time in the last 100 years that hinged on private firearm ownership? People say "yeah well look at Iraq and Syria" and so on, but all the examples I know of of even a sort-of successful resistance involve one or more of: part or all of the military siding with the revolutionaries; foreign governments shipping in arms and/or providing assistance like no-fly zones; an opponent that for political (see: foreign intervention) or moral reasons won't do anything nasty enough to win (decimation, 500-for-1 reprisal killings, hostage taking, starvation, that kind of thing) which one supposes some hypothetical super-evil US government would do in a civil war.

Yeah, but that's exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about. How large a role did private firearms play in that war? Would they have all been replaced in short order by a few crates from a foreign government or two, had they been absent in the first place (I'm assuming there were any, in significant numbers, to begin with)? What I'm skeptical of isn't that the US military can be defeated, it's that a bunch of guys with a few AR15 clones and handguns would actually be a significant factor in such a defeat. I'm certain they're not necessary for most reasonable scenarios involving victory by the rebels, and kinda doubt they're key for any.

Exactly correct. I think most gun owners (or just people who have fired a fun) understand that they'd be dispatched quickly by anyone who's job is to be proficient with firearms.

There are many more cops, sheriffs and other LEOs than sovereign citizen types. It would be a short battle.

Many gun owners train more than the average cop or sheriff. The army could beat them in war, but it is more about logistics (which the army is a master of) than ability with a gun. One on one at the range the edge goes to the gun owner over a trained soldier (it will be close, the best of both are equal, the worst soldier is better than the worst gun owner), but wars are never one on one, and never at a range.

Depending on your scenario, the army might or might not be a factor. The army is made of the people in a civil war situation many of them will defect.

Also civil disobedience in the face of state violence tends to attract a different sort of reporting and public opinion than riots and violence, which usually - not always - generates the opposite.

Violent action usually ends up as a PR gift for the status quo.

Are cops in America really that proficient with guns tho? Most of them probably only spend as much time in a gun range as an average gun owner, and quite a few probably only spend whatever minimum time is required by their department. Also only a minority of them will ever fire their weapon in the line of duty, and unless they work in Baltimore or something it will probably only be once or twice in their entire career. Police involved shooting are actually quite rare, and half the time they're as likely to shoot each other along with everything else when they unload at whatever hostile they're confronting.

I'm not trying to denigrate cops over this, I don't particularly want a police force that's a trained paramilitary. And certainly sovereign citizen types wouldn't win in any kind of armed insurrection at this point, but I wouldn't put it down to LEOs weapons proficiency as the reason.

Full-court press?

Do you also believe that Christians are being persecuted in America?

> The above is why there is a full-court press to ban guns in the USA

Our military has become extremely proficient in combating guerilla warfare. You're fooling yourself if you think that armed insurrection could happen in this country without the support of our armed forces. A civil war seems plausible, but the reason people are getting sick of guns in this country is the frequency of terrorists shooting up schools: the people willing to take up arms are predominantly children with extremist, hateful ideologies.

> I'm sorry if that offends you, but pick up a history book and read and you will see that I am correct.

It doesn't offend me, it's just trivially wrong, as I know of many privacy-enhancing laws that got passed without a drop of blood being spilled (e.g. the GDPR).

This is part of why I object to the dilution of the term "right" with the modern, European concept of creating new rights to suit a political agenda. Basic liberties are a very narrow category as laid out in the Bill of Rights. "Owning your data" is not a right in the sense in which your parent comment was speaking, certainly not in the same way as the Right to Bear Arms.

In other words, there is a big difference between the classical sense of a "right" as a moral first principle on which a nation was founded and the modern sense of a "right" as a political expediency which a politician wishes to give to candidates.

Are you saying that the social context when the bill of rights was drafted is the Only True Context and anything that happened before or after didn't actually lead to the need for more rights? Because you can't have a right to bear arms when no arms exist.

> European concept of creating new rights to suit a political agenda.

Compared to ? The US ?

> Right to Bear Arms.

Why are Americans so emotional about that ? How is that a basic liberty ?

What about the right not to die of diabetes because you can't afford insulin thanks to the unregulated "free market" they call "health industry" ? The right not to have > 70% of your population overweight ? The right to have a proper political system which isn't "democratic" in name only. The right now to be systematically spied on by 3 letters agencies ?

It sounds like anything could happen but as long as the right to own gun is kept no one would bat an eye. The recent Alabama abortion law is a very good example.

> Why are Americans so emotional about that ? How is that a basic liberty ?

I think it has to do with our nation's history. We never had a feudal system or a monarchy and fought for independence. It's a different culture. It is a basic liberty because it was set out as such as a founding principle of our nation. If you don't believe an armed populace can stop a tyrannical government, visit Vietnam or the middle east.

Health insurance is regulated. Government has no business with obesity rates; are you suggesting a "right to be skinny"? America was not founded as a democracy, but as a modified republic. And spying by 3-letter agencies is horrible, unconstitutional, and ought to be stopped.

I will refrain from responding to your abortion remark, as I think that falls under the "generic flamewar" prohibition of things we are not supposed to discuss, barring an original thought to contribute; and it is not relevant to the article. If you want to debate more on that score, we can do so offline; keybase info is in my profile.

> Basic liberties are a very narrow category as laid out in the Bill of Rights. "Owning your data" is not a right in the sense in which your parent comment was speaking, certainly not in the same way as the Right to Bear Arms.

I’ve seen this attitude to the second amendment many times. You might regard it as a fundamental and inalienable right (even though it’s in an amendment and therefore, y’know, amendable), but so far as I can see most of the rest of my [1] world think America is basically insane to even want that.

[1] i.e. anecdata, as I can’t find stats one way or the other.

The distinction only exists because you chose it to. Both were drafted by politicians. The only real difference is one was written hundreds of years ago to address problems that existed then and the other was written for a modern era to address problems we face currently.

So some nut job thinks owning guns is vital for modern society? Good luck using that hand gun to overthrow your government (which is what the 2nd amendment exists for) while they roll in with their heavy armoured tanks and drones. I’m sure your bullets will make a dent while they’re firing missiles at you ;)

This is what I don't understand about the hard-line 2A advocates. They're so concerned with being able to "defend against the government" if needed but guns are no longer the government's biggest source of power over the people. Data and surveillance are far more powerful in 2019 than any weapon.

Full disclosure: I'm a gun owner. But I'd swap the second amendment for a data privacy amendment in a heartbeat.

> This is what I don't understand about the hard-line 2A advocates. They're so concerned with being able to "defend against the government" if needed but guns are no longer the government's biggest source of power over the people.

They also fail to realize that the 2A already failed, and that it's premise wasn't that gun ownership protected against a tyrannical government. It's that gun ownership was necessary to the militia-based security posture which was the alternative to relying on a powerful standing military and armed police forces for external and internal security, and that preventing the creation and reliance on those large standing forces in the first place was the safeguard against tyranny.

"But I'd swap the second amendment for a data privacy amendment in a heartbeat."

In practice, that would be a bad trade, because you can verify that you still have your 2A rights by being in possession of a gun, whereas with data privacy, all you have are solemn assurances that your rights are being respected, and when you discover you were lied to and you didn't actually have data privacy after all, you've got nothing.

If you mean some sort of impossibly-strong, enforced-by-God-or-aliens data privacy amendment, maybe. But that's not on the table.

(My point here is independent of the question of the 2A itself, but just looking at it as the proposed trade. Trading something concretely verifiable for promises that the promising people have every motivation to break secretly and you have no ability to audit is a bad trade.)

I definitely see your point. Though I would argue most of our rights are intangible and without ability to audit yet they're (so far, at least mostly) enforced by the court system. Your right to due process, for example. And your right to free speech. And your right against unreasonable government search and seizure. All we have are solemn assurances from the court system that our rights are being protected. So far, at least mostly, it's worked.

Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile.

For those who don't know, Ted murdered people with improvised explosive devices.

I've done some research that introduced me to some of his more... acceptable writing.


He was eventually caught after he coerced the NYTs into publishing his manifesto and his brother recognized the arguments contained within it.

Not quite stylometric analysis, but I think that's an interesting angle of the story.

For eighteen years, while living in the woods.

There's a reason they're doing it in London first. In a wealthy city like London you can get away with going full "law and order" because the ratio of rich to poor is better (i.e more rich people) and the rich generally view this as no threat to them. Then once it's normalized they roll it out to Liverpool, Belfast and everywhere else that the poors are less under the thumb of the government.

You see this in the US. Boston, DC, New York, etc are littered with surveillance cameras and ALPRs. Once it's normalized they'll roll it out to places like New Bedford, Norlfolk and Buffalo and all the other places where the government (as an organization, not as individuals) feels its respected less.

If there is one place where the authorities might take a bit of care around implementing new surveillance technologies you would hope it would be Belfast.

That's basically what I was thinking. I figure as soon as the system is sufficiently "mature" they'll use it there.

I hope they totally screw it up and touch off the kind of "civil unrest" that you need in order to remind the government that people have rights.

Romford is on the outskirts of London and is not especially wealthy.

Exactly. You don't implement your Baghdad style checkpoints in Manhattan. You do it in the Bronx. The rich (the people who's non-disapproval you need) get told by the official statements (that the newspaper regurgitates) how it's the best thing since sliced bread while not actually being negatively affected by it themselves. The fact that you've got a bunch of rich people who never see the downside of each step toward the police state and don't come out strongly against it lends legitimacy to each step.

Your assumption is that the government is not controlled by the very wealthy already, so that their disapproval of the very thing they are engineering is possible. It's not designed to target them. It's for their benefit. There's no downside for the wealthy with this tech, it's all upside since it gives them greater control.

Controlled is an odd word in this context. It's both controlled by them and seeking to diminish their capacity to resist it at the same time. I think there's some tragedy of the commons here since you've got many people advocating for more government control in specific cases and it adds up to a police state.

>There's no downside for the wealthy with this tech,

Wealthy people break petty laws (the kind of stuff these systems make it possible to crack down on) all the time. There's a reason you never see the cops running a DUI dragnet at the rich people boat ramp. The wealthy do not want to be subject to surveillance dragnets because while many people can pull strings to get out of trouble very, very, very few people can afford to pull string with the regularity that would be required if the rich were subject to a police state.

> because the ratio of rich to poor is better

I’m not clicking with this theory. I think it’s in cities that are more multicultural and thus have more hostility.

The government can get away with a lot when the people are frustrated about something else.

I'm not sure your theories have a base. Population may not like whats happening, but the peoples will only rise to protest when they feel directly threatened.

People will feel directly threatened if these systems produce too many false positives which result in too many false arrests or "police harassment".

Government and vendors will get away with it by slowly and sporadically deploying these systems until "we" get used to being monitored by these "AI" type systems.

Mildly "sexy" news like this is perfect for letting the people gently feel aware that they are being monitored in this way without being too threatening.

The last thing authorities or vendors want is news that 250 <insert-triggering-ethic-minority> were falsely apprehended because of AI identification with a few citizens getting chased and "accidentally" shot in the process => That would be inescapable-incompetence compounding incompetence after all, reason to take to the streets.

Except it was used elsewhere in the UK before London.

I wonder how you'd avoid this, even if parliament had the inclination.

Would private face recognition be banned too? Very soon a CCTV setup without face recognition will be out of date.

Computer vision-ey stuff is maturing and the list of "trivial" is getting long. It'll probably be implemented in most camera applications. Face recognition, object recognition, all manner of classification.

Once your phone organizes and hyperlinks photos this way, it'll seem weird to deny police.

I'm not denying there're major rights issues associated with this, just that the technology is set to become so ambient.

>I wonder how you'd avoid this, even if parliament had the inclination.

You need a populace that overwhelmingly believes it is not ok for the government to operate a surveillance dragnet. Then the politicians will do that. The only reason the government doesn't go full Waco on people who haven't paid their parking tickets is because the overwhelming majority of society don't tolerate that. This is also why it's important to not let this kind of crap be legitimized in the public's mind.

Unfortunately it looks like that ship as long since sailed as far as a damp rock off the coast of France is concerned. With all the crap that's being dredged up as a result of Brexit there's still hope for the Irish saying they see what Britain has and they don't want any.

Exactly, educate the people about it and get them to want it to stop. Unfortunately, most people don't care if it never actually inconveniences them, and "there's a one in a thousand chance this bad thing will happen to you" isn't enough to get them to care.

Just look at how many people consider the existence of the TSA normal now.

Ok. I'm a populace (even a plurality, some days) that overwhelmingly believes it is not ok for the government to operate a surveillance dragnet.

How does this translate into practicalities? What laws do I want Westminster or London Assembly to enact?

The point I was making earlier is that the distinction between dragnet and regular policing is eroding, as this technology becomes widespread.

Presumably it's ok for police to stand at the station and look out for their man, or ask to look at a store's CCTV. We'll... That kind of thing is becoming mediated by software. Upload your CCTV photo to the app, and it finds matches with your target, or multiple targets, or everyone.

I don't know but politicians need to feel like they will lose votes if they are caught supporting these kinds of things.

To put it in US terms, in the 2016 Democratic primary we saw attack ads criticizing Hillary for being a hawk. They'd say things like "she says she supports not getting involved in Quagmire:latest but in $YEAR she voted for a bill that funded $ThingThatDoesTheOpposite".

When we see city and state politicians getting called out in the same manner for pandering to the interests (mostly police and government) that want a police state then we're on the right track.

I don't know exactly how this translates to practicalities. I'd support politicians who have a strong message of getting the .gov out of people's business in specific cases in the hope it eventually generalizes.

> How does this translate into practicalities? What laws do I want Westminster or London Assembly to enact?

I think (in London at least), there are so many cameras that we have no idea which ones just record and which have facial recognition capabilities.For all I know, when I come out Waterloo Tube Station into the rail station, the camera at the top of the escalator could be face-id'ing me.

If the police stand there pointing a camera at me, I'll naturally be suspicious, and yes, defensive.

I started to ask if the GDPR applies here, I realized you're in the UK so it wouldn't apply, but have the question anyway: Does the GDPR prevent this?

I don't think it does. If I understand correctly, these images would not be considered your private data. It belongs to whoever owns the cameras. Ianal

Interesting question though.

GDPR most certainly does apply in the UK? We haven't left the EU yet - if we ever will and even if we do we'll still have GDPR like rules in place.

EU laws don't directly apply in member states, afaik.

The UK wrote their implementation of gdpr into UK law: general data protection act 2018. It's the law unless parliament changes it, Brexit or no Brexit.

The Brexit act grants huge powers to amend law through statutory instrument ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_(Withdrawal)_Ac... ), although I'm not quite sure whether that applies here.

GDPR has a huge law enforcement exemption. The only relevant EU law is probably the ECHR(+) right to privacy.

(+) Yes I know this isn't exactly the same

In many countries recording someone in public without their consent is simply illegal. If you notice someone caught you in a picture or video, and you visible (not just a blur in a giant mass of people), you can request (force) the person to delete the footage. I've seen this happen multiple times.

Concerts and other closed events routinely have as a condition for attendance that you consent to have your photo taken.

The way to avoid this is to make dazzle makeup fashionable.

That will work, at first. It is not a long-term solution, as algorithms and technology will simply evolve to recognize in spite of that. The solution, at least for America, is to remind the feds that they have no constitutional power to use facial recognition, for a similar reason that mass surveillance is unconstitutional. It's a breach of the Fourth Amendment Right to security in persons and papers, I would argue (as is TSA), as well as a violation of the Due Process Clause, because it makes every one a suspect (same issue with fingerprints, DNA, etc.). The bottom line should be that law enforcement has no right to do anything, hold information on you, surveil you, or put you through airport security unless you commit a crime. Quite frankly, there should be no such thing as a "watch list" -- they don't get to make you turn over information or treat you as a suspect (note their use of the term "suspicious behavior" - behaving like a suspect - as a justification) when you have done nothing wrong.

There was a comment I read on another thread about some one who bought about 20 pressure cookers when they were accidentally marked down for a dollar apiece and had the police called on him. Is that really okay? I have also heard that the FBI is notified if you buy more than a certain quantity of fertilizer.

Can a Brit enlighten me as to if there are similar protections or justifications against this technology in England?

As mentioned in another comment, this is the gradual erosion. They say "we want to compromise", get some ground, then push more and "compromise" again to push the line further. Trading liberty for security is a risky game.

> I have also heard that the FBI is notified if you buy more than a certain quantity of fertilizer.

I'm not even sure it matters any longer; have you ever tried to find ammonium nitrate based fertilizer at your typical big-box store?

It's pretty much unobtainable unless you're a farmer.

> That's why it's called "erosion of rights" and not "outright nullification of rights"

True, but you can't erode something ad infinitum; eventually it will disappear.

Yes, yes it will.

This makes me very sad for many reasons:

* People are losing their freedom of privacy in the name of safety and most accept it. Many are likely unaware at this stage of the trade-off.

* One activist was in presence by happen chance, otherwise this likely would have gone unreported.

* The database _currently_ only keeps peoples data for 30 days. When the UK leaves the EU, this will likely be extended. China has already experienced multiple data breaches.

* It's unclear what data is kept and deleted, I suspect that metadata may be retained indefinitely.

* The money being spent on these systems could be spent getting more officers on the ground. I have no doubt they are sinking millions of pounds into this project.

* The police initially started testing this system illegally, there were no repercussions.

* The majority of people being arrested as a result of this technology are probably not the worst people in society. I believe this will be used to disproportionately target poorer people and petty crimes.

* Telling an officer to "fuck off" or "piss off" is not a crime. It's not an offense to be rude and you certainly shouldn't have to "Wind your neck in" in fear of a public servant.

> Telling an officer to "fuck off" or "piss off" is not a crime. It's not an offense to be rude and you certainly shouldn't have to "Wind your neck in" in fear of a public servant.

Yes it is: From the Public Order Act 1986 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1986/64)

A person is guilty of an offence if, with intent to cause a person harassment, alarm or distress, he—

(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or

(b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,

thereby causing that or another person harassment, alarm or distress.

There are exceptions for police officers though, who are expected to tolerate some swearing. Relevant cases are listed on Wikipedia.


Well it is just like I learn for driving test that one should remain calm if other driver jumps red light, cut him off or honks unnecessarily. It does not mean aggressor is right, just that one should try de-escalate the situation.

I think TV has created an image where young people can get really aggressive or even physical with police, doctor/nurses etc. The receiving side of this aggression are quite understanding people who'd say 'oh this guy is just emotionally hurt and it should be fine'.

Always start your sentence with "In my opinion you should..."

> Telling an officer to "fuck off" or "piss off" is not a crime.

This is largely true but

> It's not an offense to be rude

is rightly or wrongly a very broad grey area.


Also, if you're aggressive IIRC then it can be considered to be threatening.

I am told my stature alone is 'threatening' and 'agressive'. My freedon to express myself without fear of imprisonment is affected in many situations. I find this verbage frightening when written in law without very clear and unambigious definitions.

From the Independent coverage:

> The force had put out a statement saying “anyone who declines to be scanned will not necessarily be viewed as suspicious”. However, witnesses said several people were stopped after covering their faces or pulling up hoods.

> “The guy told them to p* off and then they gave him the £90 public order fine for swearing,” Ms Carlo added. “He was really angry.”

I live close to Romford, and I'm quite tempted to wander past with my face obscured and then politely decline if asked to be photographed.

Of course, I'm white, middle class and middle aged, so I probably wont be stopped.

“The guy told them to p off and then they gave him the £90 public order fine for swearing,”*

This is a common use of laws in the United Kingdom. They put lots of laws on the books around trivial things that they almost never enforce on their own, but then which officers arbitrarily use in "convenient" situations like this. The average person swearing in the street will not be accosted, someone arguing with a cop who wants to make a point will.

This is called selective enforcement and is part of the erosion of the rule of law in the UK. When you have mountains of laws such that most people are always violating them, you can target anyone you don't like. This leads to abuse of power and is formative in the transformation of police from those that uphold the law to thugs. The thugs decide when to punish on whim.

Up to and including ASBO's

Which whatever their intention became a useful 'we don't like your face' tool.

My default position is 'explain why you want these powers with evidence they are nescessary' unfortunately the average person here doesn't pay any attention, which is why we are one of the most heavily surveiled democracies in the world.

A great loophole to subvert bureaucracy and return the power to the whims of individuals....

To what, show who is really in control of the land? Sounds corrupt and a slippery slope to me.

“The guy told them to p* off and then they gave him the £90 public order fine for swearing,” Ms Carlo added. “He was really angry.”

Accepting such a fine is voluntary, he could go to court and defend himself instead. I'd be surprised if some organisation or another didn't offer to pay his costs?

If he gets off, it will absolutely be the result of the publicity around this case. Courts will uphold these rules if imposed on normal people.

I am not so sure he did anything illegal? Courts in the UK are fairly independent of public opinion.

Man in the news photos didn't look that dark either.

Is "piss off" swearing?

They're just "protecting and serving" their fragile egos.

What society needs is genetic engineering to ensure no more micro dick, low IQ, braindead thugs are born into the world to play grown-up wunnabe nazis.

> "neccessarily"

We haven't really even come to terms with the false positive rate associated with just looking at people. When law enforcement wants to check ID all they have to do is say they thought you looked like someone. The high rate of false positives is a feature not a bug. You could set up an empty box with a lens drawn on it with a motion detector aimed to go off 4% of the time and the result would be almost as useful to law enforcement as a facial detection system that actual did something. The facial detection just increases the efficiency of the "papers please" checkpoint.

Slight correction: It seems he wasn't exactly fined for hiding his face. Police asked him to uncover his face and he told them to "piss off", for which he was fined.

You'll find in the UK that it's quite common practice to use the vagueness in the law to pin a different charge on somebody. Being rude to a police officer isn't a chargeable offense, yet it'll be treated as such. The police have no requirement or training available to actually understand the nuances of the law, nor are they updated when the law changes. The British police is mostly under-trained and under-funded, especially as you break out of the London bubble.

One of the major issues with UK law is it's vagueness and openness to interpretation, which is all of course by design. You don't tend to notice erosion until the ground beneath you collapses.

In the US you would just get charged with resisting arrest. This is what happens when they ask for your ID and you refuse to give it to them. You wont be convicted but the fact that you can be arrested for resisting arrest without committing any crime is a problem

That’s actually worse.

I don't think it is.

Scenario 1: You get fined if you refuse to expose your face.

Scenario 2: You get fined if you refuse to expose your face, and are rude about it.

I don't see how scenario 2 is worse than scenario 1: it seems obviously less bad. Now, maybe in fact it's

Scenario 1: You get fined if you refuse to expose your face.

Scenario 3: You get fined if you're rude to the police.

This comparison is more debatable, but I still prefer 3 to 1, because not exposing your face is a thing that has (so to speak) possible functional uses, so if you can't do it then you've lost something that could actually be useful to you, whereas being rude to the police -- which, for the avoidance of doubt, I do think people should be free to do -- isn't really something anyone has a particular need to do.

Again, I can understand why someone might prefer 1 to 3. But if my civil liberties are going to be gratuitously eroded, I'd prefer to lose ones whose value is only symbolic.

Wait, that's not a slight correction, that's a whole different thing. So nobody was fined for covering their face, but when they swore at cops they got a fine for that? That's quite a distinction. That's the difference between being fined for speaking ill of Budha/Allah/God or for swearing at the police man who asked you to voluntarily not do that.

In a science fiction world, those of us who cared about privacy would start wearing make-up (until it was banned):


We don't do this en masse now because "The very thing that makes you invisible to computers makes you glaringly obvious to other humans"

I wonder, what about methods that do not obstruct human vision but do obstruct the camera? Like a faceshield, transparent mask or bag that you can wear (like a transparent raincoat hood) but one that has scattering features for near IR light that will hide your face to cameras.

Or laser dazzlers that look for lenses. Both will probably be quickly banned as criminal tools (like 'hacking tools' are in some nations).

You could also project time-dependent illumination patterns on your own face, throwing off algorithms.

I think we need temporary tattoos: they should dissolve over a few days, so you can new ones and avoid re-detection, but not be able to be "taken off" by police wishing to scan you. Something that is worn would be considered as disobedience, like the shirt the man in the article pulled over this face.

We just need one of the Kardashians to make it fashionable and then it's all over for face detection.

How do they enforce this on people wearing hijabs or other religios clothing that covers the face?

They can just make that illegal. Burqas have already been made illegal in many countries such as France and Denmark [0].

[0]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijab_by_country

Or Respro masks. Legitimate use cases for those, London has.

Hijabs do not cover the face. A niqab or burqa would, but the former are very rare in the West, and the latter virtually nonexist.

Maybe in the countryside. Go to any West EU capital and you'll see planty of niqabs and burqas.

> you'll see plenty of ... burqas

No, you won’t. The burqa is extremely rare in Western Europe. This is pointed out whenever political parties propose a burqa ban: a country would be banning something that isn’t even a significant thing there. IIRC, the total number of burqa wearers in all of France, for example, does not exceed 300.

As for niqabs, you do see one from time to time, but they certainly aren’t common against the total Muslim population, and when you do, it may be that the wearers are visitors from e.g. the Gulf states and not locals.

I see a burqa weekly and 10+ niqabs every day, and the area that I live is not what you would call a "muslim zone". It's certainly not a tourist zone, so unlikely to be non-locals.

At this point I can only assume that you are not operating with any standard scholarly definition of the word "burqa". There are different terms for the various modesty garments from the Muslim world for a reason.

He just used the terms correctly. Is your response to losing an argument to gaslight their vocabulary? That is not very sporting, even for hn.

How do you know he is using the term correctly? Seeing burqas regularly in Western Europe would be so extraordinary a thing, that assuming that he is using the term incorrectly is kinder than the other conclusion that could be drawn about his claim. From the downvoting of his posts, others too notice something is off.

I know very well what a burqa is. It's a weekly sight. I wouldn't call that extraordinary. I see it way more often than a kippah


I live in a Western EU capital. Such clothes are rare. Last time I saw one in person was while passing through Istanbul airport in 2015.

they would ask them for identification just like they did with this guy

What identification exactly? You don't have to own a passport or a drivers license in the UK, nor do we have ID cards.

most people here in the UK would have a credit or debit card on them. almost everyone have a driver's licence, but bank cards are a must even for those that dont

That does not mean they have to carry said stuff with them. Also, credit/debit cards do not store the same kind of information an ID card stores, particularly as there is no photo.

Do you really think we ought to have a society in which no one can leave his house without his dog tag?

i don't recall saying that people have to comply with having id on them at all times

As true as it is that most people have them, they're not a form of identification...

yes, but that is up to the discretion of the police officer

It's extremely normal to travel without any kind of ID, especially photo id. The main thing a lot of people carry is their driver's license, but if you don't have one of those you might very legitimately have none.

I am not saying that the police requires people to carry them, just that you pretty much need them in every day life

This is entirely untrue.

Of every person wearing a headscarf or veil? And every cyclist wearing a filter mask?

not sure, i'm not a policeman that is involved with these pilots. i am sure they are still developing policy around it

Very interested to understand what sort of metadata is being stored from these cameras. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the cameras are being used to build a database of individual’s movements, whether deliberate or as a side effect of logging.

Any more information on this from a better source than the DM?

Did a little more digging around this and discovered https://www.met.police.uk/live-facial-recognition-trial/ through Reddit.

“Live Facial Recognition uses NEC’s NeoFace technology to analyse images of the faces of people on the watch list. It measures the structure of each face, including distance between eyes, nose, mouth and jaw to create facial data.

The system detects a face, creates a digital version of it and searches it against the watch list; where it makes a match it sends an alert to an officer on the scene.

The officer compares the camera image and the watch list image and decides whether to stop and speak to the person. We always explain why we’ve stopped someone; we also give them a leaflet that explains how they can contact us to ask any questions afterwards.

The system will only keep faces matching the watch list, these are kept for 30 days, all others are deleted immediately. We delete all other data on the watch list and the footage we record.”

This was on BBC Click, which is on YouTube (for me, I'm in UK though). A good programme overall.


They give stats and details.

It may not be the same incident as the OP, but it sounds broadly similar and the programme fleshes out the general situation well.

Edit: Actually it is the same guy. The issue and provision of the fine, etc., it's on the show.

Is there another source for this? I don't even want to visit the Mail's website, let alone read whatever misrepresentation of what actually transpired that they have put down in their article.

As someone also not interested in giving the Daily Fail/Heil any traffic what-so-ever, I found this : https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/facial-recogniti...


I always find I slightly unsettling when the Mail gets frothy mouthed about the same things as Hacker News.

Don't want to get stuck in that news bubble though....

It includes video and is also available on the Daily Mirror website.

See my comment, it was on BBC Click a few days ago.

>> After being pulled aside, the man told police: 'If I want to cover me face, I'll cover me face. Don't push me over when I'm walking down the street.'

Jesus, it's a good thing cops in London don't have guns. Can't imagine how this would have ended in one of the whitebread suburbs here in the US with our 'roided-out school-yard-bullies-turned-pro.

Well said that we are the last free generation.

It so weird how much of our freedom and privacy we are giving away. People used to fight for these stuff.

And then you would think how far this can go in near future if this is just the beginning.

After all, all these fear and mixed feelings about security and conflicts are caused by a long chain of reactions and consequences of bad decisions governments are making themselves around the world. And it is sad that normal people end up losing their privacy more than responsible ones do.

It requires a fundamental strategy change that is not going to happen in reality. I wonder what kind of destructive side effects it will have for the future generations specially to the culture.

For those who prefer not to go to the Daily Mail directly:

"Camera cross-checked photos of faces of passers-by against wanted database. One man covered face before officers stopped him and took his picture anyway. He was fined £90 at scene in Romford by police who arrested three other people Police say they know of human rights concerns but want to make London safer"


(Adding a link to a news source from the other side of the aisle to the Mail.)

Less other side of the aisle than the Mail being an issue for having a long, long history of inaccurate and plain made up "reporting".

>..but want to make London safer.

It would be nice to be safer from police harassment.

That old Sinéad O'Connor is still ringing true https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n14lwdpYkAA

> ..but want to make London safer.

By the police stopping you, taking your picture, and trying to match your face to a list of criminals with 96% of false positive match rate.

Hmm, it's not like they go "positive match, right bake 'em away toys". The officer will analyse the match and on their confirmation that match means there's reasonable cause to question you, ask for ID, or whatever.

I wonder if there should be reasonable cause to take a photo and match it first?

Technically he was fined for swearing at the police, not for covering his face. If he had said nothing he would not have been fined but might have been searched as the police have the power to stop and search anyone who they have reasonable cause to suspect is acting suspiciously.

That’s not entirely accurate. They have the power to stop and search where they believe you have been involved in a crime or are carrying a prohibited item.

They must have grounds to suspect they will find what they are looking for.

If he had remained quiet he would not have been fined for swearing, but he likely would have been fined for something else. It seems pretty clear the intention was to issue a fine, not to reduce swearing.

But they didn't have reasonable cause.

Actually in England they don't need reasonable grounds.


> You can only be stopped and searched without reasonable grounds if it has been approved by a senior police officer.

This can happen if it is suspected that:

    serious violence could take place
    you’re carrying a weapon or have used one
    you’re in a specific location or area

> you’re in a specific location or area

Are the specific locations this applies to defined in law, or can a senior police officer just say "this neighborhood has a lot of criminals; search everyone"?

Bit of a mix, seems possible to make justification for an entire city. [1]

[1] - https://twitter.com/brumpolice/status/1100765101156634624

That's... even worse than I feared, and most of the responses to the tweet are supportive.

>>Police say they know of human rights concerns but want to make London safer"

Alrighty then, just wanted to make sure that they know of human rights concerns.

Another report https://metro.co.uk/2019/05/16/moment-man-fined-90-hiding-fa... It's a little bit like saying "If she doesn't want to be tossed into the water she must be a witch!"

I regularly see people going around with their faces covered in Portland. For example, guy in dark clothes on a bmx bike riding down east bank esplanade.

I assume that these folks have warrants. But I am not aware of any deployed facial recognition in Portland.

If they are doing it for that reason, that seems like a bad choice. That would stand out even more obviously than had they worn a T-shirt that said "The police are looking for me".

I thought the same but you still see it all the time.

1984 was not intended to be a how-to manual.

I wonder if you could copyright your face and then use the law against the law. DMCA takedowns etc etc.

It's not an artistic work, and there are broad rights to images in public that preclude you from making a work on your face to prevent imaging of it.

It's a nice idea but it would allow lots of law breaking of things worked that way. Eg paint something on your car, now police can't capture you on speed camera!!11one.

Yes sadly that is the crux. Whilst the people do have concerns, those concerns are shared for nefarious reasons by your criminally inclined.

Way things are going, how long until we have camera technology as CCTV that is comparable to Holywood camera's - certainly the standard today is up there with 80's offering.

Might even come a time when you can do a film in places like London without needing any cameras as you can just ab-use the data protection act to get copies of any footage your in and get all the camera angles and video you need to edit into a film. Kinda doable now, though not all cameras are 4k and well light area's. But certainly doable.

One interesting legal aspect about CCTV in the UK - the only camera's that are allowed to record audio are the ones located outside police stations. Which is reassuring as with mic-arrays - intrusion into privacy and indeed voice recognition would be far greater than any CCTV/facial recognition. But that is one to watch and keep an eye upon as I'm sure that will change/erode over time.

> use the law against the law

You can only do that if the lawmakers agree.

They already agreed lots of copyright laws and the like, be kinda ironic to use those laws for civil justice.

How good is this software if you just close one eye and make a grimace while walking by?

Show your face, slave!

... and now his face is all over hackernews. Great.

Police state intensifies

I personally don't see any issue with this.

If you want absolute privacy, than stay at home.

If you want absolute freedom, than go live somewhere where nobody else lives.

Society runs on compromises: your freedon to swing your fist ends where my nose begins (and viceversa); your privacy ends where my safety is concerned (and viceversa).

To add to this, there hasn't been any expectation of privacy beyond a reasonable amount out in public, in most places, for the longest time. Whether you think this is morally correct or not, it has been the norm for quite some time so this can't suddenly be surprising.

What’s your full name, phone number, and street address?

If you want privacy, then don’t post online.

He doesn't even have an Online Commenting License. A hefty fine under the Against Hate Speech Act of 2022.

Even if I accept your premise that privacy from facial recognition in public is to your safety as swinging my fist at your nose is to your right to not be assaulted (I don't), I don't think the police in the UK have done a good job justifying the benefits of using facial recognition this way. How much safety benefit does it actually produce?

The main point for me is that policemen made it really clear that, once public procedures and policies have been defined by a legitimate government, unless those policies infringe internationally recognized human rights, it's not up to the single citizen to challenge them!

If you don't agree with them, democracies give you the means to start a public discussion. But, in the meanwhile, you comply. That is civilization!

Do you know that idiocy of sovereign citizens? Well, London police demontrated that none of that bullshit will be tolerated. And, while I personally dislike being continuosly filmed, I think that London police has just made London a better place to live.

London city is not the wild west.

This is not the point you made earlier. That point is:

> your privacy ends where my safety is concerned

and I dispute both the premise and that this is a legitimate instance of it.

Modern liberal democracies have until pretty recently come down strongly on the side of privacy. For the most part, in such societies, detaining people and making them answer questions or identify themselves has required significant objective evidence to suspect them of wrongdoing. Searches require stronger evidence, and often judicial oversight. Surveillance dragnets have traditionally been forbidden or strictly limited. In short, people have only been expected to give up privacy in the name of safety under narrow circumstances.

What the police are doing with facial recognition in the UK is anything but narrow. Nobody has made a good case for circumstances in the UK being so dire as to demand people be unable to walk down public streets in near-anonymity.

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