German police displayed the first facial recognition cameras at a main railway station in Berlin to the media on Thursday (August 24), testing new technology that could help track and arrest crime and terrorism suspects.
The cameras for the six-month pilot project were installed on August 1 as 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 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 Suedkreuz station, a main transport hub in the capital.
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.
Friedemann Ebelt, an editor for data protection and human rights group Digital Courage said that the technology was like asking people for fingerprints.
The deadliest Islamist attack in Germany last year was carried out by failed asylum seeker Anis Amir, who killed 12 people in Berlin by driving a truck into a Christmas market. Security agents who suspected he was planning an attack had stopped monitoring him after they concluded he was no threat.