Gov’t To Create Giant Facial Recognition Database From Passport Photos

27th October 2023 / United Kingdom
Gov't To Create Giant Facial Recognition Database From Passport Photos

By Rob Woodward – TruePublica: For years, our government has been creating a political system in which the government tries to see into every part of people’s lives. This was especially true when Theresa May was Home Secretary, and it still remains a fact today. But the news that the government, without debate or consent, is to create a giant facial recognition database is yet another gross violation of our privacy.

There are reasons why a government wants as much data on its population as possible – security is the main one. But we have a government that has broken just about every law possible when it comes to state surveillance (READ: list of mass surveillance systems Wikipedia)

Take Operation Optic Nerve. Here is the Wikipedia introduction to that outrageous and illegal voyeuristic operation. “Optic Nerve is a mass surveillance programme run by the British signals intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), with help from the US National Security Agency, that surreptitiously collects private webcam still images. As an example of the scale, in one 6-month period, the programme is reported to have collected images from 1.8 webcam users. The programme was first reported on in the media in February 2014, from documents leaked by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, but dates back to a prototype started in 2008 and was still active in at least 2012.

Going on that information, the government has something like 15 million images.

The leaked documents describe the users under surveillance as “unselected”, meaning that data was collected indiscriminately in bulk from users regardless of whether they were an intelligence target or not. The vast majority of affected users would have been completely innocent of any crime or suspicion of a crime. The images were collected in a searchable database, and used for experiments in facial recognition.

This was a whole new level of violation of our privacy by the state – but it also got a whole lot worse. Between 3 and 11 per cent of the images captured by the webcams were sexually explicit in nature. This was because Optic Nerve turned on webcams without the knowledge of the user. It captured images of naked children along with other compromising images of perfectly innocent people going about their own business in their own homes.

This form of state surveillance is shocking beyond belief. A government spokesperson simply stated: “It is a long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters.” And that was that. In reality, we have no idea what the government is up to because it is only leaked documents and whistleblowers like Snowden who get this type of information out.

But now, the government is to build a population-wide facial recognition database out of passport photos in the UK.

Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said:

“This plan to subvert Brits’ passport photos into a giant police database is Orwellian and a gross violation of British privacy principles. It means that over 45 million of us with passports who gave our images for travel purposes will, without any kind of consent or the ability to object, be part of secret police lineups.

“To scan the population’s photos with highly inaccurate facial recognition technology and treat us like suspects is an outrageous assault on our privacy that totally overlooks the real reasons for shoplifting. Philp should concentrate on fixing broken policing rather than building an automated surveillance state.

“We will look at every possible avenue to challenge this Orwellian nightmare.”


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