A new biometric “gait recognition” system has been developed by
Britain’s National Physical Laboratory, meaning that individuals can now
be recognized and located by their “signature” walk.
Serious privacy concerns have been aired about the system and its potential surveillance applications.
Scientist reports that NPL, which collaborated with the Center for
Advanced Software Technology (CAST), the BBC and BAE Systems, developed a
new system through which a person’s walk could be identified. The
tracking system combines a computer model of the NPL building with feeds
from each on-site CCTV camera.
In each video frame, the
system separates an individual’s silhouette from its background. The
rise and fall of head height is recorded, and the pattern it forms can
be represented by a set of numbers. This is linked to the person’s
identity. A computer can then produce a list of all the other places
that the person has visited, and the occasions they have been there.
scans and facial recognition systems are seen as insufficient when it
comes to identifying individuals from a longer distance. These methods
require a “cooperative subject” and high-quality imaging.
Standard CCTV is too low-resolution to pick out distinctive features,
but the gait-identifying development could give it much more advanced
“This technology poses a real
threat to privacy and in the coming years it will be used for marketing
purposes as well as supposed public safety.
Personal data goes far
beyond writing down your name and address now and the law urgently needs
revising to reflect this,” Nick Pickles, director of the UK’s Big Brother Watch told RT.
research has been carried out by Professor Martin Hofmann and
colleagues at the Technical University of Munich. They have developed an
even more intrusive version that takes information from a person's
image, such as shadows on their clothing, creating a considerably more
Additionally, Professor Daigo Muramatsu
and colleagues at Osaka University have been conducting research on how
people can be identified from different camera angles. He believes the
research could also have “commercial applications,” according to New Scientist.
Hoffman suggested that it could be used to identify bank robbers who had their faces covered.
However, Nick Pickles stated, “Rather
than finding new ways to identify innocent people, we should be asking
why mass surveillance has failed to make people any safer.”
Earlier this month RT reported the FBI’s installation of the $1-billion Next Generation Identification system,
which is able to recognize faces, across America. This is an “upgrade”
to the current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System,
and already has incredible surveillance capabilities over the innocent
as well as guilty.
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