Facial recognition tech to combat terrorism in Germany

Germany is considering installing advanced facial recognition technology at airports and train stations in order to help prevent terrorist attacks.

According to Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, intelligent software capable of autonomously identifying faces in images from CCTV cameras would spot known suspects in the crowd and alert authorities about possible threats.

"I would like to use this kind of facial recognition technology in video cameras at airports and train stations,” de Maiziere told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, referring to existing technology capable of distinguishing images of celebrities and politicians.

“Then, if a suspect appears and is recognised, it will show up in the system."

De Maiziere’s remarks came following a recent series of terrorist attacks in Germany, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility. On 18 July, a teenage refugee from Pakistan attacked people on a train in Wurzburg with a knife. A week later, another asylum seeker detonated a bomb at a music festival in Ansbach, injuring 20 people.

Germany has a latter-day dislike of surveillance technologies, due to the negative experiences surrounding the practices of the East German Stasi secret police and those of the Nazi Gestapo before them.

However, de Maiziere said that such systems are already being used in public places to spot suspicious pieces of luggage. When an unattended bag is detected by the intelligent software, the system automatically alerts authorities after a few minutes.

De Maiziere said that, following the latest events, people in Germany would have to learn to live with certain restricting measures. For example, organisers of Munich’s Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, have already announced stricter security procedures. Visitors to this year’s event won’t be allowed in with rucksacks and will be subjected to security checks at the entrances.

"We will have to get used to increased security measures, such as longer queues, stricter checks or personal entry cards,” said de Maiziere. “This is tedious, uncomfortable and costs time, but I don't think it's a limitation of personal freedom."

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