German police test facial-recognition cameras at Berlin station

Pilot project part of plan to calm Germans’ fears about national and civic security

A women walks by a security sign warning for a face recognition area at the Suedkreuz train station in Berlin on Tuesday. Photograph:   Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

A women walks by a security sign warning for a face recognition area at the Suedkreuz train station in Berlin on Tuesday. Photograph: Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

 

German police deployed the first facial-recognition cameras at a main railway station in Berlin on Tuesday, testing new technology that could help track and arrest crime and terrorism suspects.

“We want to test how good the technology really is,” police spokesman Jens Schobranski said of the six-month pilot project, part of a promise by chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives to raise funds for police and security.

Opinion polls in the run-up to a general election next month show many voters are worried about security, partly after attacks by asylum seekers stoked criticisms of Dr Merkel’s decision to allow in more than one million migrants.

The images of a few dozen German volunteers have been entered into the new monitoring system to gauge how well the software can recognise them and distinguish them from passersby at the Südkreuz station, a main transport hub in the capital.

Mass observation

Privacy is a sensitive subject for many Germans who still fret at the mass snooping practices of the Nazi regime and the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany. Mr Schobranski said footage of the passengers visiting the station would be deleted.

Ulrich Schellenberg, president of the German Bar Association, doubted that the new technology will help. “Improving security is not about uncovering something new but rather to go after what we know more forcefully,” he said. – (Reuters)