German interior minister pushes facial recognition software in public

Germany should implement facial recognition technology in train stations and airports in order to catch terrorism suspects, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said in an interview on Sunday.

"Private individuals have the ability to take a photograph of someone and use facial recognition software online to see whether they've just spotted a celebrity or politician. I'd like to use that kind of software in video cameras at train stations and airports," he said.

The system would give an alert when a terrorism suspect appeared. "The authorities need this technological capability, which is also legally permitted," the politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Other political parties voiced scepticism of de Maiziere's plan.

"I wouldn't be against such measures," Burkhard Lischka, the domestic political affairs expert for the centre-left Social Democrats, told dpa.

But the focus should be on making comprehensive updates to the country's security technology, not just "small high-tech islands," he said.

"Selectively using this software right now - which will likely only be mature in few years - even as many officials must make do with 15-year-old PCs, is like putting frosting on a cake that hasn't been baked," he said.

Konstantin von Notz, a spokesman for the Green Party on digital issues, also suggested that de Maiziere's plan was "half-baked."

He told dpa that the technology would entail enormous costs and, in his view, should only be used in certain events. "For example, if one had a concrete indication of a planned attack at an airport."

In the interview with Bild am Sonntag, de Maiziere said he also supported rucksack bans at public events.

"Every museum visitor is already used to leaving his bag or rucksack at the entrance," he explained. "We need to get used to heightened security measures, which include longer lines, more security checks or personalized admissions tickets," he said.

"It's inconvenient, uncomfortable and takes up time, but to me, it's not a limitation on freedom," he added. "If we were to cancel Oktoberfest, that would be a limitation on freedom."

Last update: Sun, 21/08/2016 - 15:02
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