Singapore to check facial recognition on lampposts, stoking privateness fears

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Within the not too distant future, surveillance cameras sitting atop over 100,000 lampposts in Singapore may assist authorities pick and acknowledge faces in crowds throughout the island-state.

FILE PHOTO: SenseTime surveillance software program figuring out particulars about folks and autos runs as an indication on the firm’s workplace in Beijing, China, October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Picture

The plan to put in the cameras, which can be linked to facial recognition software program, is elevating privateness fears amongst safety consultants and rights teams. The federal government stated the system would permit it to “carry out crowd analytics” and assist anti-terror operations.

GovTech, the Singapore authorities company answerable for a “Lamppost-as-a-Platform” pilot venture scheduled to start subsequent yr, has given corporations till Could to register their curiosity in offering expertise for the community.

“As a part of the LaaP trial, we’re testing out varied sorts of sensors on the lampposts, together with cameras that may assist backend facial recognition capabilities,” a GovTech spokesman stated in an emailed assertion to Reuters.

“These capabilities could also be used for performing crowd analytics and supporting follow-up investigation in occasion of a terror incident.”

Singapore says the venture is a part of a broader “Good Nation” plan to make use of cutting-edge expertise to enhance folks’s lives and has pledged to be delicate to privateness.

Video surveillance networks are frequent in cities like London or New York. However Ian Wilson, a safety lecturer at Australia’s Murdoch College stated he believed that Singapore’s can be completely different in that it’d contain intensive facial recognition expertise.

Such expertise has turn into commonplace in Chinese language cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

Some high officers in Singapore performed down the privateness considerations.

FILE PHOTO: Folks take pictures with the skyline of the central enterprise district in Singapore September 10, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Picture

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stated final week that the Good Nation venture was geared toward bettering folks’s lives and that he didn’t need it executed in a approach “which is overbearing, which is intrusive, which is unethical”.

The spokesman for GovTech stated: “The necessity to defend private knowledge and protect privateness are key concerns within the technical implementation of the venture.”

The federal government additionally hopes to make use of different sensors on the lamp posts to watch air high quality and water ranges, depend electrical scooters in public locations, and gather footfall knowledge to help city and transport planning, GovTech stated.

GovTech didn’t say what number of lampposts can be used within the preliminary pilot venture. However a former head of Singapore’s civil service, Peter Ong, stated final yr that the nation goals to convey all of its 110,000 lampposts into the sensor community.

Adam Schwartz, senior employees lawyer on the U.S.-based rights group Digital Frontier Basis, urged Singapore and different governments to not undertake facial recognition surveillance expertise, in a response to a request for remark from Reuters.

He stated he was involved such expertise may very well be turned on political opponents or used to curb free speech by deterring peaceable protest. Facial recognition expertise usually permits authorities to match folks picked up on cameras with these in databases.

Singapore’s solely opposition occasion in parliament, The Employees’ Get together, declined to remark.

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Yitu Know-how, a Chinese language firm that has lately opened its first worldwide workplace in Singapore, instructed Reuters it was weighing a bid with its companions.

Yitu opened a gross sales and advertising and marketing operation in Singapore this yr and likewise plans to arrange a analysis and improvement hub within the nation.

The corporate says its facial recognition platform is able to figuring out over 1.eight billion faces in lower than three seconds. Singapore has a inhabitants of 5.6 million folks.

“We see a giant potential on this nation. They’re prepared for the AI revolution” stated Lance Wang, Yitu’s basic supervisor for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Macau, including that the agency was discussing a possible bid with companions.

Xjera Labs, a Singapore-based firm, stated it was placing in a bid with companions.

“The scope we’re bidding contains most video analytics associated parts, akin to facial recognition, crowd monitoring and human attribute detection,” Ethan Chu, Xjera’s co-founder, instructed Reuters.

A spokeswoman for SenseTime, a facial-recognition software program firm dual-based in Beijing and Hong Kong, stated it was “exploring the scenario” and declined additional remark. The corporate contains Singapore’s state investor Temasek as considered one of its backers following a $600 million funding spherical which closed on Monday.

Wilson, the safety lecturer at Murdoch College, stated that not like cities like London or New York, Singapore didn’t have a excessive crime or terror-threat stage that justified such surveillance capabilities.

In its 2018 threat map revealed this week, AON, knowledgeable providers firm, ranked the fear menace in Singapore as “low”.

The federal government says, nevertheless, that the nation faces threats from each home-grown militants and overseas terrorists.

Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan and John Geddie; Extra reporting by Fathin Ungku and Sijia Jiang in HONG KONG; Modifying by Jack Kim and Philip McClellan

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