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article imageSingapore to test facial recognition on lampposts

By Tim Sandle     Nov 16, 2018 in Technology
Singapore is considering fixing surveillance cameras to the top of over 100,000 lampposts. The aim is to assist authorities with picking out and recognizing faces in crowds across the island-state. Not all are happy about the situation.
The aim of the government of Singapore is to fit the cameras atop of lampposts (dubbed the "LaaP trial"). These cameras will send signals to computer containing facial recognition software. LaaP will extend to all of the country’s 110,000 lampposts. The aim is two-fold. First to enable the government to run anti-terror operations. The second aim is less clear, but it involves the state performing what is described as "crowd analytics", which presumably means estimating crowd numbers during demonstrations.
The fitting of the cameras will be run by the state-run agency GovTech and work is set to begin in 2019. At present, tenders are open for interested parties to put forward proposals to provide the technology to support the operation. One such company is Yitu Technology, which recently opened a sales office in Singapore, and a partnership including Singapore-based Xjera Labs. Another in the running is SenseTime, which recently became the world’s most valuable AI specialist with the conclusion of a $600 million series-C funding round.
A GovTech spokesperson is quoted as saying: "As part of the LaaP trial, we are testing out various kinds of sensors on the lampposts, including cameras that can support backend facial recognition capabilities."
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The move has led to concerns being expressed by both security experts and human rights groups, especially in relation to the right to protest peacefully. In response, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has responded stating that he does not want the project to be overbearing, intrusive, or unethical.
However, what is unclear, according to Gizmodo, is whether the cameras will be on 24/7 and hence matching every person that passes by to a database? Or, is the face recognition only activated in crisis situations when a suspect is at large? The answer to this question may or may not placate some of the privacy concerns.
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