Boston cops used facial recognition tech at music festivals

Going to Boston Calling? The latest addition to the 2013 line-up was facial recognition technology

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Music festivals are generally regarded as places where the normal rules of existence don't apply: set a field of tents on fire? Sure. Drink half your weight in booze by 1pm? Go on. Consume more mystery white powders than an Erowid psychonaut? Why the fuck not. But if you want a creepy glimpse of the post-NSA festival future, look no further than last year's Boston Calling.

Dig Boston reports that city authorities used sophisticated facial recognition technology to capture and analyse footage of thousands of unwitting music fans at two separate Boston Calling festivals in 2013.

According to memos obtained by Dig, IBM employees who were contracted to work on the "Face Capture" program describe their plan to use it on "every person" at the concert, with "anyone who walks through the door" targeted as a person of interest.

You can look at the images captured by "Face Capture" here:

As Dig points out, this isn't your average grainy black-and-white CCTV footage. The data captured even allows for real-time video analysis, with a "People Search" function allowing law officials – or whoever has access to the data – to search for people via "head color",” "skin tone" and "clothing texture". 

Internal photos found by Dig showed police officers using the programe during Boston Calling. Boston Police Department denied ever using the technology.

A spokesperson for the mayor acknowledged that the program had been used in a trial run, but said there were no long-term plans for usage yet: "The City of Boston did not pursue long-term use of this software or enter into a contract to utilize this software on a permanent basis... From the City’s perspective, we have not seen a clear use case for this software that held practical value for the City’s public safety needs."

You can read the whole investigation here.

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