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Finnish police want to use surveillance camera face recognition tech

Finnish law enforcement officials say they want police to be able to acquire and use facial recognition technologies which would help them identify people more easily from the vast amount of images that its network of surveillance cameras provide. A working group at Finland's National Police Board is examining the constitutionality of implementing facial recognition tech - as well as what setting up such a system would cost.

Valvontakamera katonrajassa
A surveillance - or CCTV - camera. File photo. Image: Kirsi Matson-Mäkelä / Yle

Police monitor its surveillance cameras in cities, along roadways and in towns across the country every day. When a crime is committed near one of these cameras, police must pore through hundreds of images manually and - in real time - watch hours of video to find out what actually took place, according to the National Bureau of Investigation, the NBI.

The task is so great that the police has special group of investigators who are charged with manually reviewing those images, one at a time. The process is time consuming and also susceptible to human error, according to the NBI's Arto Tuomela.

Currently, Tuomela says police are unable to properly process all of those surveillance camera images and video.

"The new technology could help to speed up a criminal investigation," Tuomela says.

He says that acquiring facial recognition technology would help to reduce law enforcement's workloads. Such technology is already in widespread use by government agencies in countries like China, the US, Australia and New Zealand. The technology is either implemented or being examined by officials in countries across Europe and in the UK.

Tuomela says that Finland may be able to start using facial recognition tech in two years, at the earliest.

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