Face Recognition Comes to Bars

BioBouncer is a face recognition system intended for bars:

Its camera snaps customers entering clubs and bars, and facial recognition software compares them with stored images of previously identified troublemakers. The technology alerts club security to image matches, while innocent images are automatically flushed at the end of each night, Dussich said. Various clubs can share databases through a virtual private network, so belligerent drunks might find themselves unwelcome in all their neighborhood bars.

Anyone want to guess how long that "automatically flushed at the end of each night" will last? This data has enormous value. Insurance companies will want to know if someone was in a bar before a car accident. Employers will want to know if their employees were drinking before work -- think airplane pilots. Private investigators will want to know who walked into a bar with whom. The police will want to know all sorts of things. Lots of people will want this data -- and they'll all be willing to pay for it.

And the data will be owned by the bars thatcollect it. They can choose to erase it, or they can choose to sell it to data aggregators like Acxiom.

It's rarely the initial application that's the problem. It's the follow-on applications. It's the function creep. Before you know it, everyone will know that they are identified the moment they walk into a commercial building. We will all lose privacy, and liberty, and freedom as a result.

Posted on February 28, 2006 at 3:47 PM • 52 Comments

Comments

Tom O"BFebruary 28, 2006 4:31 PM

One of the local restaurant/bars installed a video surveillance system and then started letting the local police view the tapes. 9 months later they were out of business, no customers.

gregFebruary 28, 2006 4:37 PM

A little OT:

In a local contex facial recognition mite work. With big databases, i think we will end up with the same problem as with DNA fingerprinting. Fact is that humans are *very* good at facial recognition, and yet how many times do we meet people that you will swear looks like someone else. Think look a like competitions. Dam they look just like the presdent or some famous singer.

IMHO facial recognition won't pan out like the proponets claim. In a word false positives!

CodOcFebruary 28, 2006 4:38 PM

It appears that there is no stopping this, and it is not clear that it is in our best interests to try.

Assuming the face-recognition technology works (dubous?), the best defense is to employ countermeasures - from a simple disguise to some other method/tech.

Sadly, the average (law-abiding), techno-ignorant person is the one who will suffer the most; the criminals and techno-literate folks will find ways around "BioBouncer" and his ilk.

AnonymousFebruary 28, 2006 4:39 PM

I was watching an episode of Law & Order the other day, and they were looking in a gay bar to see if some victim had been there before. The bouncer couldn't remember, but "luckily" they had a system in place where the scanned everybody's ID before letting them in (apparently, they had gotten in trouble for letting 15-year-olds in before, so this system is supposed to stop that...)

Anyway, as the cops were scanning the list for their victim, one of them asked the bouncer to pull up the scanned ID of a name they *weren't* specifically looking for - it was his son, and he didn't know that his son was gay.

They didn't really make much more of it than that in the episode (well, except the whole "acceptance" issue, but that's irrelevant). But I thought it was a pretty big deal that the cop would "misuse" such a system like that, and nobody seemed to mind.

David DonahueFebruary 28, 2006 4:39 PM

I think the problem here is really more fundamental.

Yes, If the bars (or anyone) collects such data it likely has value to a data aggregators and thus it is likely that the early adopters of this technology will make money selling this data, and this is data we don't want collected about us because we don't trust the people who might buy it.

Insurance companies and employers are good examples of parties that we do not believe we can trust to not over-investigate our lives.

But the idea that we can stop this over-investigation by blocking each new way of gathering data about us is, i think, naive. Once it becomes known that bars can make money selling the names of it's customers, they will do it even if they use credit card logs or just writing down our names from conversation, no facial req system is needed for that.

We need to have a system where there is no financial insentive to violate our privacy.

It seems to me that the only way to prevent this over-investigation is to create laws that specify exactly what data and methods can be used to enforce actions against us, such as being fired or have insurance claims go against us or even how we can be criminally investigated.

In the US, The Bill of Rights goes a long way to protect our privacy from the state, but modern changes in technology and the merger/outsourcing of police functions to the private sector have made new situations come up that force us to update/revise our implementation of the laws and freedoms that were intended to be guaranteed us by what the founding fathers wrote.

However I'm not sure that any of the three branches of government (Congress/Executive/Judicial) are currently interested in fixing this until it becomes much much worse and it captures the public at large's attention.

Tobias WeisserthFebruary 28, 2006 4:39 PM

If I was running a bar, I would have to invest real money into hardware that is potentially driving away my customers to other places without such a thing. What incentive do I have to install such a thing? I can get rid of a troublemaker easily with muscles. I have to anyway since the camera doesn't toss people on the street. People do. People can remember faces too.

This kind of surveillance is only dangerous if it is obligatory by law. I don't see why bar owners would install such a thing if they don't have to.

Besides, very large disco bars in Europe already have cameras installed at various locations inside their premises. They do so not to spy on their visitors but to spy on their staff and control whether they steal and so on.

Saqib AliFebruary 28, 2006 5:32 PM

> We will all lose privacy, and liberty, and freedom as a result.

????
I m not sure how it effects liberties of civilized people.

Or did you mean the litberty of a drunk driver to run-over someone, and get away because of technicalities.

I am OK with losing some privacy as long as it keeps the roads and air safe.

Saqib AliFebruary 28, 2006 5:50 PM

> We will all lose privacy, and liberty, and freedom as a result.

I dont see how "civilized people" lose liberties because of this.

Or were you talking about the liberty of a drunk driver to run over someone and get away because of technicalities?

I don't mind losing some privacy, as long as it makes the street and airspace safer.

fishbaneFebruary 28, 2006 6:18 PM

Or were you talking about the liberty of a drunk driver to run over someone and get away because of technicalities?

Care to explain how facial recognition will stop either drunk driving or legal "technicalities"? (I saw a great definition of technicalities a while back - a technicality, legally speaking, is a mechanism by which someone else is found innocent. When referring to you, they're called "civil rights".

Ed T.February 28, 2006 6:18 PM

@Saquib,

"I m not sure how it effects liberties of civilized people.

Or did you mean the litberty of a drunk driver to run-over someone, and get away because of technicalities."

There are other ways of identifying someone as an intoxicated driver. Simply being in a bar doesn't make someone drunk. This appears to be, not an enforcement tool, but a tool to help pub owners identify those who might not be welcome in their establishments, without an explanation of 'why' this customer is PNG (maybe he is a fighter, maybe he doesn't pay his bills, maybe he is an undercover agent with the Alcohol Enforcement Bureau.)

"I am OK with losing some privacy as long as it keeps the roads and air safe."

Yeah, but maybe I'm not!

-EdT.

Saqib AliFebruary 28, 2006 6:42 PM

@fishbane

"Wrong must not win by technicalities" Aeschylus

facial recognition will not help in prosecuting a drunk driver. But the recording from these BioBouncers can definitely be used against a drunk driver.

@EdT
> Simply being in a bar doesn't make someone drunk.
And similarly having a

ScottFebruary 28, 2006 7:04 PM

Jamie Zawinski who owns a drinking & dancing establishment expects that it won't work (or in his words, work as well as the Do Not Fly list). Which is good news for... well... nobody, since the manufacturers will need to reposition asap, which makes it even more likely that it will be put to "nefarious" purposes. Sell the widgets to car insurance companies so they can add "drinking habits" to their actuarial tables (more data = more profit in insurance), then the insurance companies can pay a small lease to bar-owners, for 18 inches of ceiling/wall corner space and some electricity.

I don't know the relative prices involved, so maybe it's not economically likely? We can only hope that these things are stupidly expensive.

jkFebruary 28, 2006 7:21 PM

Saqib Ali:
"facial recognition will not help in prosecuting a drunk driver. But the recording from these BioBouncers can definitely be used against a drunk driver."

Have the courts had much trouble in convicting anyone with a BAC beyond the legal limit? How many times has evidence been entered by witness of bartenders that "Yes, he was drinking here?" Please provide references of any of these instances for us. Actually, please provide the references for those instances where the evidence of BAC by either blood test or breathalyzer was insufficient and only the eyewitness testimony of some patron or bartender ended up convicting someone for OUI.

Having video evidence of people drinking will not change anything about convictions of people drinking and driving. It simply won't. There's not enough time or incentive for any prosecutor to go dig up that evidence when they know they'll get a conviction on BAC.

Your argument that it would make streets safer by removing drunks is upside down. It will not stop people from drinking and driving.

Sadly, folks like you acquiesce to the people foisting this kind of technology on us that solves nothing, but only erodes our civil liberties.

Dean MartinFebruary 28, 2006 7:33 PM

Pish posh. They'll never find a use for that "extra" footage. Even if they did,
we may lose some liberty, but hey! Ya don't ever again have to wake up wondering which bars you hit last night. You can just hop on the Internet and go to Unerased Permanent Years Of "Unused" Recording & Surveillance (U.P.Y.O.U.R.S) Videos dot com, and 'replay' how many shots you took, or whatever it was that gave you such a bad hangover.

It's really just a huge convenience for us all. We should be thanking those thoughtful bar and club owners.

Bruce SchneierFebruary 28, 2006 7:46 PM

"I m not sure how it effects liberties of civilized people.

"Or did you mean the litberty of a drunk driver to run-over someone, and get away because of technicalities."

Neither. I said, and meant, that it's the secondary uses that are the problems. Liberty is lost when this data is available to anyone who wants it.

EricFebruary 28, 2006 8:59 PM

Could these parties (insurance, p-eyes etc) get the same data from credit card transaction report? Or is the "my credit card was stolen" defense too robust?

David DonahueFebruary 28, 2006 9:10 PM

A lot of people of speaking of the law enforcement angles of this issue (i.e. drunk drivers), but shouldn't we be focusing on the many non-criminal uses of this data that we don't want.

For example: What if this data was scanned to see if individuals often entered or left bars together over several occasions. The data could then be correlated to see if those people are married to each other. Letters could be sent to those two's spouses offering to sell this "evidence" of cheating. False positives in this data would be glossed over in the fine print. Could a similar system used by hotels and/or cabs be correlated with this data to see who was doing what, where and with whom. Damn the accuracy, this is a money maker...

This only scratches the surface of the social issues of semi-accurate ubiquitous data gathering technologies.

I for one wouldn't want to be explaining to my crying wife the positive/negative merits of data correlation and how this doesn't prove I was cheating (especially when I'm not doing so). Yes I went to the bar at the times listed, yes i would probably agree that Babe x likely enters the around then too, even over many times. This could be something as simple as Babe x (whom I've never met) gets off work at about the same time and cuts through the bar's lobby to shorten her walk to her car. Or she's seeing the bartender, or she smokes and goes in and out a lot or she's a waitress, or she really does go to the bar then but its a coincidence and I'm not seeing her. or... or... or...

In any case, I don't want this data collected about me, since i don't want to have to deal with the second order consequences.

NikolaiFebruary 28, 2006 9:17 PM

Oh, this is great. I pretty much guarantees that if you go to one of these bars your going to get screwed.

But rather than ban the systems, we need to require posted notification. That way them that choose these systems, can reap the rewards of lost business.

I personally avoid redlight camera locations, not a direct impact but it would be interesting to see if businesses near the camera locations experienced lost business. Make enough enterprise free zones, maybe they'll hesitate putting in the cameras?

VickiFebruary 28, 2006 9:41 PM

Saqib doesn't see how this affects the liberties of civilized people.

Maybe he doesn't care whether a potential employer, or landlord, or health insurance company checks on whether he's going into a particular bar. But lots of civilized people do--we want the liberty to hang out where we want, without worrying that someone is going to grab those and threaten to tell someone that we were in (just for example) a gay bar, or listening to a band or comedian that someone considers subversive. Do you want to take the chance that you went out somewhere for a drink, they had live entertainment, and two weeks later you're being asked to defend yourself for your "choice" of entertainment (whether you went to hear the performer, or just because you wanted air conditioning, a seat, and something cool to drink)?

Koray CanFebruary 28, 2006 10:07 PM

I'm sorry, but I don't get how we lose our privacy by visiting public places like bars where we cannot expect any privacy.

The reality is that as technology advances a lot of public data about us that we think is unknown will be known to anybody who is interested in it. And we fear that we'll misinterpret it. I doubt it. I actually expect it to be quite eye opening.

I'm not afraid of suffering from inaccuracies in legal proceedings, either. If the information is wildly inaccurate, it will be the easiest challenged evidence.

Hasan DiwanFebruary 28, 2006 11:42 PM

You write under a somewhat incorrect assumption that we have privacy, liberty, and freedom at present. We may have liberty and freedom, but privacy is certainly dead, and if MI-5, DHS, and similar agencies have their way, civil liberties will also be dead. Freedom can't be far behind.

AnonymousMarch 1, 2006 1:42 AM

@Koray Can; there's a difference between "a few random people could know" (normal privacy in a bar) and "anybody in the world can choose to know by paying or getting access" which means that your enemies can easily find out with no way for you to know.

There was an example not so long ago where a man who slipped on a wet floor and broken glass in a supermarket lost his claim for compensation. The reason was that the supermarket could use his store card to show that he had previously bought alcohol.

If someone knocks you down by going through red lights, the record of your appearances at local bars may be used against you. Even if it's not at all relevant.

Alternatively, if you want to blackmail someone or have evidence for a divorce, arrange for a suspect partner's ID to visit the bar just after they arrive each day.

Alternatively, if you want to attack somebody's home or family when they aren't home, get access to the central database and carry out the attack immediately after their ID turns up in a bar.

In this sense Bruce is right. However, it seems to me that Bruce's standard answer (try to stop cameras) won't work. People have the right to control access to their own property; the use of databases may be helpful. The only answer is criminal (felony) liability for leakage of personal information without express permission. If the typical penalty for responsibility is, say, five years in jail, then the issue will be taken more seriously.

JamesMarch 1, 2006 2:23 AM

The common assertion that we have no expectation of privacy in a public place I believe is fundamentally flawed. I have every right to expect privacy even in a public place. In particular I have a right to expect NOT to be 'stalked' in a public place whether that be by someone specific who is following me or by a government or private sector organization that just wants to keep tabs on me.

Sure, people can see me but that doesn't mean I should be under constant surveillance. Think about this, would you feel a bit uncomfortable and perhaps a bit "violated" if, as soon as you stepped out of your front door, someone shoved a camera in your face and followed you around the entire time you were in 'public' places (on the street, in your car, in the mall, at work, etc.)? Is it any less of a violation if the cameras are hidden?

To argue that we have no right to privacy in public places flies in the face of the anti-stalking laws. If I have no right to privacy then on what basis can I get a court order preventing someone from following me around all the time? After all, I'm in a public place so I have no expectation of privacy. Why can't I get an injunction against the mall security office because they 'stalk' me every time I'm there (using their video cameras)?

I realize this in unpopular and that it flies in the face of canonized law. However, it is still my opinion and for the few moments I have left to legally express my opinion in this country, I feel obliged to share it.

another_bruceMarch 1, 2006 2:33 AM

lol@muslim temperance advocates coming out of the woodwork with the old drunk-driver-victim-strawman in support of pervasive surveillance. in my culture, drinking and privacy are both honored institutions.
the intimate little dives i occasionally pop into, they don't need to take my pic to remember who i am. cameras would clear out these places faster than anthrax. there will always be a mass market and it will have to look out for itself. with 6.5 billion people on earth as of last saturday, somebody somewhere right now is telling a strange woman that he wishes he could be a sports car so he could hug her curves. it isn't me.

JakeSMarch 1, 2006 6:02 AM

Bruce said "Before you know it, everyone will know that they are identified the moment they walk into a commercial building."

Hold on.  The camera doesn't know who you are.  It just takes a picture of a face coming through the door.  Unless that face is linked to ID, it's just an anonymous face.

For everyone to be identified the moment they walk into a commercial building, (1) everyone's face must be recorded with their ID, and made available to the keepers of the commercial building, and (2) the system has to recognize every face accurately and unambiguously in order to correlate it to an ID.

I guess (1) is possible, either by government or by business;  but I wonder about (2).  Is automatic face recognition really that reliable?

kiuMarch 1, 2006 6:42 AM

Stop drunken pilots ? Not in germany!
Some years ago a big german air carrier wanted to check their pilots before a flight with an alcohol tester. But they werent allowed to, because that would breach the pilots privacy, unbelievable.

jmcMarch 1, 2006 6:55 AM

@JakeS
(2): No, it's not. But if you are wondering about false negatives and wether their probability is going to change anything, take a look at the DHS-no-fly-list.
A system being unreliable seems to actually *make* people/governments use it.

arlMarch 1, 2006 7:22 AM

Yes people can use this against you. And why not? You were somewhere that may, or may not, have been a good idea in visiting.

People who cause problems in bars represent a huge liability risk for the owners. If they get out of line and hurt someone the owner is often sued. The tool becomes an extension of the core function of the doorman, keep those out that that are not wanted.

I don't know why people go out to another person's private property (the club) and expect the same level of privacy as in their own homes. Once you are there don't expect people to keep your secrets for you.

Yes the fact that you went into a bar could come up if you are involved in a car crash on the way home. But all you are saying is that you don't want to make it easy to establish the truth about where you were. If you are going to go to a place that sells intoxicants then expect resonable people to come to a resonable conclusion. If the question was about a fast food joint I would expect that you went there to buy food.

People who want privacy need to take resonable steps to establish a secure environment. That means that their house needs doors and drapes, they need to not ask banks to extend them credit for daily purchases (credit cards) and they need to make arrangements with other property owners (in advance) to provide privacy.

JemaleddinMarch 1, 2006 7:40 AM

You know what sounds good right now? Grocery deliveries. Shopping online. Telecommuting. Staying inside for the duration.

Oh yeah, today it sounds crazy. In the future? Not so much. Cause if it's not the complete loss of privacy, it's the zombie menace.

RogerMarch 1, 2006 8:14 AM

My wife would like me to visit the local wellness baths with her. Unfortunately they have surveillance cameras everywhere, so I refused to enter and we never went there again. You guess, she was pissed for weeks and somehow still is.

Even worse, I cannot fly to vacation with her. What if we take a trip to some sunny country, and unexpectedly the officials over there insist on recording my fingerprints, iris scan or whatever? In my home country, I could just stay at home (and pay for nothing). But in a foreign country I can't. My data would be out for abuse until I die.

Caring about privacy means being pushed out of society. Losing freedom in a very real, everyday sense.

Now they have cameras on all railway stations. Only weeks ago, some youngsters jumped in at the stop and tried to rob my notebook right off my lap while I was working in the train. I did not let go, and it ended in a loud fight on the platform. Did the rotatable dome cameras record the criminals? Not a single bit.

Cameras don't hear, don't turn their heads, and of course don't help. Attackers can cover their faces anyway, anywhere, anytime. And since cameras replace real cops, zero safety remains.

But I learned that camera resolution is high enough to read the papers of people in the trains passing by. Now I fear to use my notebook anymore on train, not because the robbers but because the cams might record the screen and my typing, emails, names, private details, financial portfolio, passwords and so on. Or stuff from my preferred political party, so my election secrecy might be compromised.

All this seems not too paranoid to me since the following incident: My father's bank charged him some hundred bucks that they say he pulled from the ATM in that bank's front room. But he didn't, and demanded to see the surveillance camera tape. Exactly this one tape was missing!

I conclude it was some employee of the bank who had access to my father's acount details as well as the video data, learned the secret PIN from the tape, then stole the money and the tape.

My personal life is constantly impaired by camera surveillance, but it did not help me a single time. Thank you very much.

Jim HyslopMarch 1, 2006 8:28 AM

"Yes people can use this against you. And why not? You were somewhere that may, or may not, have been a good idea in visiting."

Now that's an interesting point - who defines what is a "good idea"? At what point does it become a bad idea?

"If you are going to go to a place that sells intoxicants then expect resonable [sic] people to come to a resonable [sic] conclusion."

Pardon my bluntness, but that's BS (and I'm not referring to Bruce).

That is *not* a reasonable conclusion to reach. Bars also sell soft drinks. When I'm out with friends at a bar or restaurant, and I will be driving, I will order at most one alcoholic beverage. After that, I switch to soft drinks or water. I do NOT drink and drive.

Under your premise, if I leave this bar and get into an accident, I will be denied any insurance coverage, because I was in a place that sells alcohol, therefore I must have been drunk.

Hang SunMarch 1, 2006 8:45 AM

@Arl: Did you think your point through to the end?

> Once you are there don't expect people to keep your secrets for you.

Of course I don't. But I do expect people NOT to go great length - buy and install and aim devices at me - to rip off and steal and publish puzzle pieces of my life. Any database, if "secured" or not, is effectively equivalent to public because the data will be sold, reconciliated, replicated, backupped, lost, stolen or hacked sooner or later.

There is a huge difference between random people around you who, as you can see and feel, don't stalk and haunt you, and a highly efficient total surveillance machinery that turns your whole life inside out and puts it on file.

See, I don't mind being seen by people, and I can stand being searched by people, because their eye resolution, memory capacity and bandwidth is so limited. But I DO mind being seen by cameras, backscatter scanners and the like because their resolution, capacity and bandwidth is unknown to me and in principle unlimited.

We never really know how much data a technical scan reveals, where the data goes, how badly out of context it is interpreted, and what the consequeces will be.

I have to walk through a red-light district twice a day: in the morning from the bus to my company's building, and back in the evening. (The company has nothing to do with "red light".) As much as I try to be left alone, occasionally some prostitute or bouncer gets in my way and talks to me. How would that look on a photo? On ten photos from ten days? Fivehundred photos through the years?

Oh, and if one of those prostitutes is the friend of the sister of some suspected terrorist? Will I survive the next administration? Or that of 2040? Or some mad militia of people who have lost loved ones to what they believe was a terror attack?

Man I am totally screwed...

jokerMarch 1, 2006 9:00 AM

...even the automatic doors did not open for him as they knew his average spending was too low to justify the power consumption...

AnonymousMarch 1, 2006 11:03 AM

"People who want privacy need to take resonable steps to establish a secure environment."

Yeah, and we all wrap ourselves in non-transparent plastic cocoons with thermal, x-ray, microwave and tempest shielding, and internal biorecycling.

The first who leaks a kilobyte (because she is days behind patching her shielding technology) becomes the global laughshot of the month, and has her account zeroed by the mob. Leak a megabyte and it's illegal scandalization.

of course, a reinstall from fresh DNA media is required afterwards to regain system integrity.

RoyMarch 1, 2006 11:32 AM

Suppose you are an investigator working for an insurance company on a case where, if you can prove Joe Blow was out drinking that night, the company doesn't have to pay.

You use your company account to buy two positive matches from video surveillance for the time window of concern, one from a bar which shows him entering at 8 pm, the other from his workplace which shows him leaving at 11 pm.

Which will you use? (Given your employer, we know you have no soul.) (Technical note: both matches may be false positives.)

As the database grows, false positives will be the rule, not the exception, when mistakes are made. That is simple statistical fact. If the database becomes national, you'll be able to prove Joe Blow was simultaneously in seventeen different cities on the East Coast and in eleven on the West Coast.

Where the present law most spectacularly fails is in not holding an 'objective' 'technical' observer responsible for mistakes. A computer cannot commit perjury by giving a mistaken identification. The expert testifying on behalf of the computer's decision can commit perjury but will not, under current law, be prosecuted for his misdeeds, or mistakes.

If the expert were made to face a mandatory 30-to-life for any error, it would be hard to get an expert to testify without holding a gun to his head.

@Saqib Ali

Now do you see how "civilized people" lose liberties because of this?

arlMarch 1, 2006 12:20 PM

"Now that's an interesting point - who defines what is a "good idea"? At what point does it become a bad idea?"

That depends on who you are and what you are doing.

@Jim Hyslop
"That is *not* a reasonable conclusion to reach. Bars also sell soft drinks."

I am glad you don't drink and drive, in fact I am grateful you don't.

But lets be more specific. Do you honestly think that as you make that turn out of a bar's parking lot and get into a bad crash the first thing the investigators are going to think of is "they sell soft drings there as well"?

"Under your premise, if I leave this bar and get into an accident, I will be denied any insurance coverage, because I was in a place that sells alcohol, therefore I must have been drunk."

If after the crash you refuse a test to measure your blood alcohol content I would bet that would be the default reaction. (Leaving the bar would not be PC for a BAC test but the crash might be).

Contrast this to the expectations if you crash while leaving a MADD meeting.

A'kosMarch 1, 2006 1:20 PM

@Jim Hyslop
"Under your premise, if I leave this bar and get into an accident, I will be denied any insurance coverage, because I was in a place that sells alcohol, therefore I must have been drunk."

Yes of course, and you are a raper as well (you have the tool) :-)

Josh OMarch 1, 2006 1:35 PM

The bar can do whatever it wants without limiting our freedom. Simply don't patronize that bar, or use methods to circumvent their technology. The only way we can lose liberty, is if our governments restrict our right to cirumvent these private measures, a la the DMCA.

pigletMarch 1, 2006 2:25 PM

"Or did you mean the litberty of a drunk driver to run-over someone, and get away because of technicalities."

Red herring. A bar owner's facial recognition program will never be admissible as forensic proof in court, and anyway whether somebody visited a bar is no proof for drunkenness. I'm pretty sure that this kind of data collection doesn't have any legitimate use for law enforcement. If it has value, it would be for inofficial surveillance purposes, and that's exactly what people should be worried about.

Btw, there is no justification for storing the pictures even for a minute. If they want to compare faces to a database, they can do that without leaving any data trail. Needless to say, this kind of privacy intrusion is legal only in the USA (and maybe in China), nowhere else.

CodOcMarch 1, 2006 4:15 PM

@arl
"If after the crash you refuse a test to measure your blood alcohol content I would bet that would be the default reaction. (Leaving the bar would not be PC for a BAC test but the crash might be)."

You're making several assumptions, both of which are wrong:

1) Blood alcohol content is an indicator of whether someone's driving ability is impaired or not (it isn't - you're assuming everyone metabolizes alcohol at the same rate and that .08% means the same thing for everyone)

2) BAC tests are accurate (they're not, as BAC changes over time--it actually rises and then falls; a breathalizer can't tell the difference between alcohols from mouthwash, paint, or martinis)

GregorMarch 2, 2006 5:39 AM

... and as always, bad security ideas get copied in Germany:
A discotheque in Hamburg (the "Night-Fever") is not only going to install centralized video surveillance at the entrance area, bathrooms, emergency exits, and some other places, but will also take fingerprints from their customers as well:
http://www.donau.de/nachrichten/kurzzeitung/meldung.shtml?rubrik=mz&id=60307 (German only, sorry)

Some highlights: "If charges are pressed, the recordings will immediately handed over to the police. Otherwise, they will be deleted after a smooth weekend". And "That's not surveillance. It is just to make our customers feel safe." And: "It's practice for the FIFA World Cup this summer." Don't make me comment on this, it wouldn't go through profanity filters ...

Jim HyslopMarch 2, 2006 8:20 AM

A side note on some of the discussion here: the comments have repeatedly mentioned "privacy", but aren't we really talking about "anonymity?" If I hold a conversation in a public place (e.g. a bar or restaurant), I expect there's a strong probability my conversation will be overheard: my conversation topic is not private.

On the other hand, unless there's someone I recognize, I expect there's a strong possibility nobody will know who I am, so I have a reasonable expectation of anonymity.

AnonymousMarch 2, 2006 9:15 AM

"A discotheque in Hamburg will also take fingerprints from their customers"

That's a sure recipe for losing clients. However, it is not clear from the article what they want the fingerprints for. The article states that the traits used are not sufficient for personal identification, so what's the point? From the legal perspective, they will very likely get into trouble. At least they would have to have the clients sign a paper, which won't be easy.

pigletMarch 3, 2006 9:06 AM

I have asked the Hamburg data protection officer (http://fhh.hamburg.de/stadt/Aktuell/weitere-einrichtungen/datenschutzbeauftragter/start.html) for a clarification. Here's the response:

"Die Erhebung und Speicherung personenbezogener Daten ist nach dem Bundesdatenschutzgesetz zulässig, wenn entweder eine Rechtsgrundlage besteht oder der Betroffene freiwillig seine Einwilligung gegeben hat.

In dem vorliegenden Fall stellt sich die Situation bisher nach den mir bekannten Presseberichten so dar, dass lediglich dann, wenn jemand eine Clubkarte hat, die Fingerabdrücke genommen werden sollen. Offensichtlich wird niemandem ohne Fingerabdruck der Zugang zu der Diskothek verweigert."

Club clients have to consent voluntarily to their finger print being taken. Nobody may be refused entry if they refuse to give their finger print. In the specific case, it seems that club card holders
are authenticated (?) by finger print. No law is broken as long as it is voluntary.

TankMarch 4, 2006 5:19 AM

Quote:"And the data will be owned by the bars thatcollect it. "

All two of them.

Stefan WagnerMarch 5, 2006 12:43 PM

Customer: "This drink smells somewhat rotten!"
Barkeeper: "Like to make some trouble?"
C: "I like to have a fresh one!"
B: "Get out here!" (I'll put him on the database!)

Next bar, 5 min. later:
Barkeeper 2: "Well - please don't make any trouble, just leave!"
C: "???"

First bar again:
Customer 2: "This drink smells somewhat rotten!"
Barkeeper: "Like to get on the list? Last week we welcomed our 15.000th VPN member" (smile)

Mails anywhere: "NoSe enlArgem3nt - get a fresH face and a new chance in the bars!"

Michael BirkMarch 5, 2006 4:31 PM

One point that I have not seen raised much, if at all, is that humans have a deeply-ingrained fear of "being watched." After all, for thousands of millenia, being watched often meant being stalked by a hungry predator or a vicious rival. So it's no small wonder that we've developed an acute sensitivity to and healthy aversion to this situation.

So, while I agree wholeheartedly with Bruce's concerns of abuse, I think this underlying fear is what drives our visceral and emotional response to covert or pervasive video surveillance. Personally, my stomach turns at the thought of an Orwellian future in which, the moment I step outside of my home, all of my actions are recorded, logged and aggregated.

Michael BirkMarch 5, 2006 5:08 PM

arl said:
"I don't know why people go out to another person's private property (the club) and expect the same level of privacy as in their own homes."

No one has claimed any such thing. Indeed, most people expect a very high level of privacy in their home. The issue that you are dismissing is that people also expect some level of privacy outside of their home. Your statement seems to acknowledge that there are different "levels" of privacy. Yet your argument rests on the notion that, if you aren't in your home, then you have no privacy.

later arl said:
"People who want privacy need to take resonable [sic] steps to establish a secure environment. That means that their house needs doors and drapes, they need to not ask banks to extend them credit for daily purchases (credit cards) and they need to make arrangements with other property owners (in advance) to provide privacy."

You are correct in one sense -- if you take "reasonable steps" you might have a "reasonable expectation of privacy." This is the legal standard that we have today. However, the obvious problem is that "reasonable" is never defined. We only have the case law, and quite frankly, the precendents are not consistent. Moreover, changing technology is creating new situations for which there is no precedent.

As an aside, I have to ask: You can't really be suggesting that our spending records are (or should be) public knowledge simply because we have "opted in" to the technological world, and therefore use credit cards, can you? That's ridiculous.

Fortunately, your final statement provides an escape: presumably, one would "make arrangements" with their credit card company in advance to not share their financial data with other entities. Just like we do today. Yet, what happens if they do share or leak the data?

That is the real issue here. How do we force disclosure of data recording, aggregation, and destruction policies? How do we audit and prosecute violations of these policies? One idea is to simply let the civil courts figure it out. Unfortunately, that's almost the situation we have today, since the legislation we do have is quite weak. And, in my opinion, the do-nothing approach isn't working very well.

Those who simply repeat, "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear," need to stop casting the person who is seeking privacy as the bad guy (e.g. a drunk driver). Consider all of the myriad possibilities in which *you* are victimized by high-tech thieves, heartless corporations, and corrupt officials. How do you propose that we prevent, detect, and control this kind of lawless behavior?

Michael BirkMarch 5, 2006 6:24 PM

Saqib Ali said:
"I am OK with losing some privacy as long as it keeps the roads and air safe."

However, on his web site, his first statement is a quote:
"It is not useful for liberty that we abolish it in order to protect it."

Now, I will admit that these are not entirely contradictory statements. But neither are they entirely compatible. It seems that Mr. Ali, like myself, believes in a balance between the "freedom" of individuals and the "protection" of society.

If we are truly committed to striking a balance, then we have a lot of work to do. I feel that much of the public debate is dominated by extreme viewpoints. Those extreme situations are fine as a starting point, because it is usually easy to see who is being wronged. However, we can't allow the debate to stop there.

The standard answer to the question, "Where does your right to swing your fists end?" is "At my nose." While in reality that's probably a little too close for comfort, it acknowledges the important point that there is a tradeoff to be made.

We need to answer the question, "Where does your right to collect and distribute information about me end?" It seems that many people here are answering, "Nowhere," and I find that disturbing.

Spy GearMarch 23, 2010 3:59 PM

I think that bio bouncer is a very good idea if. If I am in a public place I would like the idea of a camera that recognizes previous troublemakers that way, they wont make trouble when I am there and security will be able to escort them out before they try any thing. There is a difference in personal privacy and public privacy when your out in public dont expect anything you do to be private when you are at home and technology such as what is described aboved invades your home then you can complain. It is all a matter of public safety, with all the terrible events you hear on the news everyday there needs to be some sort of preventive measure in place such as bio bouncer.

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