Report: Live Facial Recognition Tools 'Staggeringly Inaccurate'

According to the BBC, U.K. police using live facial recognition tools to help identify wanted criminals in large crowds are encountering a significant number of false positives.

One report given to British privacy group Big Brother Watch stated that the South Wales Police used the technology from March 2017 to March 2018 to make 2,685 "matches"; however, 2,451 of those -- or a whopping 91 percent -- were "false alarms."

Another report Big Brother Watch uncovered said that a police department that used the software to scan people at a couple of one-day events got 102 matches, but no one was actually arrested.

And one police department reported that it stopped using the technology altogether.

The reports did not name the systems or technologies being used by each department.

South Wales Police responded to the BBC's reporting that part of the reason its false positives were so high is that, at first, it was working with very low-quality images; it told the BBC that its accuracy rate has improved over time. The department also stated that no one was wrongly arrested.

Calls to improve the accuracy of facial recognition software have also occurred in the United States, among other locations.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the vice president of Web & Digital Strategy for 1105's Converge360 Group, where she oversees the front-end Web team and deals with all aspects of digital projects at the company, including launching and running the group's popular virtual summit and Coffee talk series . She an experienced tech journalist (20 years), and before her current position, was the editorial director of the group's sites. A few years ago she gave a talk at a leading technical publishers conference about how changes in Web browser technology would impact online advertising for publishers. Follow her on twitter @beckynagel.