Police use facial recognition most often in the event of theft

Above all, the analysis software tries to investigate theft offenses.

Has been with the in Austria for almost a year police the Face recognition analysis in action. Like now thanks to one parliamentary question, which was introduced by the member of parliament Katharina Kucharowits (SPÖ), the analysis software was used in the vast majority of cases in the event of theft. Overall, the facial recognition software was used in 1574 cases by June 24, 2021 – the software has been in regular operation since August 1, 2020.

What the software was used for

470 Cases of this concerned the suspicion theft. In 251 crimes, people were investigated who, in addition to theft, also committed a break-in, or who are said to have used weapons. In 33 other cases it was about serious theft with theft of objects with a material value of over 5,000 euros.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) presented one Excel list from which all offenses emerge. It just went with 16 Cases about getting one Murder to enlighten. According to Nehammer, the facial recognition software is not used to monitor protesters at ongoing events. However, it has been confirmed that digital image matching is related to Demonstrations is possible, namely when “deliberate judicial criminal acts” have to be cleared up.

The Federal Criminal Police Office had the software in 2019 for 448.813,20 Euro from the German company Cognitec Systems bought, the supply contract was concluded with Atos IT Solutions und Services GmbH. In order to be able to work better with the images, three work PCs and six high-resolution screens worth 4277.98 euros were purchased.

No real-time monitoring planned

Data protectionists have always feared that the software could also be used for real-time monitoring, for example on demos. The face recognition software used by the police is not designed to monitor people in real time, Nehammer emphasized once again in the response to the query. There is no legal basis for this and the software is “unable” to do so, they say. Instead, images from cameras are compared with the police reference database.

For MEP Kucharowits, using the invasive technology primarily to solve theft is still “sprawling“. “The fact that software that was actually designed to fight felons is now being used against petty criminals is extremely dangerous in terms of democratic politics.”

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