Unbeknownst to Download attendees, Leicestershire Police were using facial recognition software last weekend to identify known crooks. Roughly 90,000 people descended on the music festival, and strategically placed cameras were used to scan their faces and cross-reference them with a European database. Privacy advocates weren't best pleased when Police Oracle first revealed the police's plans, and now the force has come forward to defend its actions. It says the cameras didn't take or store anyone's photograph, and that the software only compared faces against a list of people known to commit crimes at festivals. In addition, all of the data was destroyed at the end of the weekend.
"The software provided an efficient and effective way of picking known offenders out of a crowd -- something that officers would previously have done using paper briefings," chief superintendant Chris Haward says. Leicestershire Police has been trialling NEC's NeoFace software for some time now -- it was the first UK force to adopt the technology last summer and plans to use it for suspect identification and developing new lines of enquiry. The sticking point at Download, of course, is not just that the technology was used in the first place, but that attendees weren't told about it either before or during the festival.
[Image Credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images]