Facial recognition: a harmless pilot project?
A controversial pilot project involving automatic facial recognition has been in operation at Berlin's Südkreuz railway station since the start of August. Cameras film passengers at three locations, and computers compare the images with the faces of 300 volunteers. Commentators take differing views of the experiment.
Right to anonymity repealed
Introducing automatic facial recognition would be tantamount to giving Big Brother free reign, the Süddeutsche Zeitung warns:
“The bottom line will be: those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. Really? Even those who have nothing to hide will be scanned, registered, and no doubt also saved in databases. Do people who don't get into any trouble and don't have anything to hide no longer have the right to go unobserved? Are all individuals potentially suspect? Must they submit to being screened just to prove they aren't? ... An infrastructure of surveillance is being established at the national and international level. Terrorism has occupied constitutional thinking.”
No reason to panic
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung doesn't object to the idea in principle but sees the need for more clarity when it comes to legal aspects:
“It's good that data protection activists, lawyers and the Greens are taking a close look at this. Why conventional video surveillance is accepted everywhere whereas biometric surveillance is supposed to have 'totalitarian traits' isn't really clear at first glance. Facial recognition is still under observation. Blanket surveillance is not imminent. On the other hand the threat shouldn't be forgotten. Only those who weigh up all the different factors can give the situation due consideration.”