District Detroit Video Surveillance Can Pick Your Face Out of a Crowd

November 08, 2019, 8:08 AM

The District Detroit security monitoring center, shown in a video below.

Just so you know, Detroit sports fans and concertgoers: Video security systems around Little Caesars Arena and Comerica Park include facial recognition technology.

When Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer wanted to ask about that capability, "Olympia Development declined repeated requests for an interview," she writes. Here's why she's interested:

Another frame from the Detroit video below shows the system's identification precision.

Press releases and promotional videos posted on a security contractor's website announced last summer that Ilitch Holdings had installed a security package that includes video analytics in The District, a 50-block area around Comerica Park and Little Caesars Arena. 

Avigilon, the contractor, noted in a press release that Ilitch Holdings'  "complete security solution" includes 1,600 video surveillance cameras using Avigilon's video management software, and, per the website, facial analytics.

"Operators can initiate a search for a person by selecting certain specific physical descriptions, including clothing color and gender, to find a person of interest," the company's website explains. "Avigilon Appearance Search technology also incorporates the characteristics of a person's face, enabling the technology to search for the same person, even if items such as their clothing change over time."

A Motorola division describes capabilities of the 1,600-camera system in The District Detroit.

"Ilitch cameras are watching you," the Freep opinion page headline begins.

The columnist lists five "questions I would have loved to ask the executives who run Olympia's security operation:"

  • How the Ilitch companies use this software.

  • How often it is used to identify someone suspected of a crime.

  • How often such identifications are passed to the Detroit police.

  • Whether the software has ever mistakenly identified the wrong suspect.

  • What kind of requirements operators must satisfy before making an identification.

Kaffer, who talks about privacy concerns with Rodd Monts of the ACLU of Michigan and Clare Garvie of Georgetown University's Center on Privacy and Technology, concludes:

I want a safer city. But I want to understand how decisions intended to keep us safe are made. And who they have the potential to harm.

Vendor's security video:

Read more:  Detroit Free Press

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