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UK Plans to Scan All Attendees at the Champions League Final

Police in Britain are planning to use automatic facial recognition (AFR) to scan the face of every single attendee to the UEFA Champions League final on June 3 at the National Stadium of Wales in Cardiff.

They plan to then use those scans to run a real-time comparison with the mugshots of 500,000 criminals and known “persons of interest."

The idea of course is to thwart any potential terrorist action—a particularly piquant concern in this case after the bombing of a Borussia Dortmund team bus before a quarter-final match. Yet detractors point out that the efficacy of the system—or rather, lack thereof—doesn’t justify the privacy implications of taking facial scans of wide swaths of UK and EU citizens whose only crime is a love of football. In fact, the FBI in the US ran into big privacy trouble over just this issue not too long ago.

The Powers That Be do understand that the approach has its flaws. For instance, the London Metropolitan Police previously conducted an AFR pilot last August, during the Notting Hill Carnival. They arrested 454 at that event, but not one of them had come up as a hit against the database of evil-doers.

“I have seen the use of AFR increase [over] the past few years and a recent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology indicated that facial recognition is a difficult challenge,” Tony Porter, the UK government’s surveillance camera commissioner, told Motherboard. “Getting the best, most accurate results for each intended application requires good algorithms, a dedicated design effort, a multidisciplinary team of experts, limited-size image databases and field tests to properly calibrate and optimize the technology.”

Nonetheless, the system will be used on gameday in the Welsh capital’s main train station, as well as in and around the stadium, which is in Cardiff's central retail district. Nearly 170,000 are expected to attend the highly anticipated European championship event.

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