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British cops nab shoplifter with facial recognition tech

It’s another reason to wear a mask the next time you’re up to no good: British police officers have picked up a suspected shoplifter after using state-of-the-art facial recognition software to identify him. The individual concerned was singled out because of a strong resemblance to his father and brother, two criminals already on the police’s database.

Law enforcers in Leicestershire told the Register that the software — called NeoFace — was being trialled for a period of six months. Police in London and other European countries are also interested in adopting the technology if the initial tests can prove its usefulness. It works by comparing faces captured by CCTV and still images to a database of known offenders.

At the moment, finding a match through NeoFace is not enough to convict anyone of a crime, but it can be employed to open up new lines of enquiry and organize identity parades. A clear front-facing mugshot image is required for NeoFace to work with, though its operators admit that it’s “more of an art than it is a science” in its current form.

Leicestershire police say NeoFace has been used in over 200 cases so far. Spokesman Dave Harper explained: “The officer came in with CCTV images of a shoplifting suspect he didn’t recognize. We ran his image through the facial recognition system and his father and brother both popped up, because the family all have strong and shared facial characteristics.”

The same software has also been used in parts of the United States. A armed robbery suspect in Chicago was identified through the use of NeoFace last month and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Amid concerns that the system could be used indiscriminately, Chicago Police Commander Jonathan Lewin said that “there will absolutely be no random surveillance — and facial recognition — of subjects in the public way.”

[Image: Vasin Lee / Shutterstock]

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