Image recognition systems are reopening an important debate on the relationship between citizens' security and privacy.
The Italians are a people of saints, poets, navigators and passionate about crime. Since ever the news stories have always been our obsession, and we are ready to follow the events and to take and position as if we were doing the investigation. But how does the search for truth really work? In collaboration with Fiat Professional and the State Police, we tried to understand the mechanisms of this mystery machine, from the crime scene to the laboratory analysis.
In the collective imagination, science fiction films represent an inexhaustible basin from which to draw information on the technologies of the future. Some scenes of these films have remained engraved in the memory also for the introduction of facial recognition systems used by the law enforcement agencies-as in "Robocop", for example. In films, artificial intelligence algorithms allow you to recognize the face of a suspect directly from a video or an image, calculating the salient features of the face-such as the hairline, the position of the nose and ears, the distance Of the eyes. Arrived in 2018, however, this technology has become reality and pushes us to face the eternal and necessary debate between security and respect for privacy.
European cases and SARI
In Europe we already have two cases, in this sense. The first is that of the British police, for example, that last August, during the Notting Hill carnival, used a facial recognition system. The second comes from Germany, where a similar system was introduced at the Berlin railway station, to launch a six-month pilot project. In both cases, however, these systems have been harshly criticized by organizations that defend civil rights, which have challenged their potential invasiveness and the complete absence of a parliamentary debate to establish their legality.
The Italian "database"
The AFIS database, which has recently become APFIS (Automated Palmprint and Fingerprint Identification System), is an automated system that contains, among other things, images of fingerprints, photographs, and personal and dactyloscopic data of all persons subjected to surveys. fotosegnaletici. The "SARI" (Automatic Image Recognition System) is a distributed facial recognition solution that can perform different biometric recognition algorithms in multiple operating scenarios. "In particular SARI 'Real time' represents the solution able to analyze in real time the faces of the subjects taken by the cameras, comparing them with a reference watching list. The cameras can be installed in mobile observation points to support territorial control operations, thus allowing a dialogue between video surveillance systems and the database - in order to return an immediate photograph of the suspect, or a series of names or several photographs of candidates to be compared later, "adds Angelicchio. In its 'Enterprice' function, SARI is instead the solution able to search for the identity of a face present in an image, within the database of subjects subjected to photo-signaling. The result contains a list of similar faces sorted by a degree of similarity.
The public debate between security and privacy
To ensure the privacy of citizens by law enforcement, Dr. Angelicchio emphasizes that the system does not provide for indiscriminate and free access, "but they are necessary, like all the systems we manage and that contain sensitive or sensitive data, a username and password to be assigned upon request by personnel in certain offices, and only for specific reasons. "Regarding the necessary precautions regarding privacy, explains Angelicchio," SARI represents a technological evolution of a research system already existing (SSA - registry subsystem), therefore it already works according to all the prerogatives required in the field of privacy. "The doubts and questions on this type of systems have been the subject of debate for some time, because they could potentially be used for different purposes in the against citizens who are not sufficiently informed and aware of the systems of sorvors they are subject to. These themes become particularly relevant at public events and other territorial control activities, assisted by the Scientific Police with the new Fullbacks of Fiat Professional. In fact, the facial features are unique and can not be changed easily: if a person is registered for some specific characteristics of his face, it is essentially impossible to be mistaken for another. Precisely because of the concreteness of these possibilities, some experts speak of the so-called risk chilling effect, ie that deterrent effect according to which, for fear of being recognized with surveillance systems of this type, some citizens could be driven to self-censorship and not participate at public events. In essence, facial recognition is clearly a very useful tool for investigations and can reduce the range of investigations and speed up the time of operations. At the same time, however, because of the enormous possibilities it provides and the potential capacity for access to the most intimate sphere of people, it requires us to think and discuss the issue of the relationship between public security and respect for privacy in the most open way possible. , so as to be included in an equally free and secure social experience.
The debate is open.
This content is produced in collaboration with Fiat Professional and Polizia Scientifica.