New surveillance technologies

Event security - New surveillance technologies

Over the course of the search for suitable security concepts, many technologies have been put to the test. Some of them are already in use in public places and at events. For instance, bio- metric camera technology is currently undergoing intensive testing at the Südkreuz subway station in Berlin, Germany. This disputed project focuses on automatic facial recognition.

Ever since the beginning of April 2017, three video cameras with biometric facial recognition have been monitoring this station, which was already equipped with video surveillance. These cameras automatically recognize faces that have been previously fed into the system’s database. This technology is able to clearly identify these faces even if the persons in question are wearing sunglasses or have made other changes to their appearance differing from the image that was fed into the database, such as growing a full beard or shaving their head. Following a six-month test phase, for which around 300 people have volunteered to submit their data, results will be gathered to demonstrate how sophisticated these cameras are. This technology could provide highly beneficial for events. Persons who have been included in the database because of committing crimes, for instance, would be easy to identify at entrance points. However, critics have also voiced their opposition to these databases. After all, everyone recorded by the cameras could be identified using digital images from the Internet and added to the database. The possible abuse of this sensitive data would have far-reaching consequences. Alongside (controversial) personal identification, the cameras would also be able to detect suspicious circumstances such as unattended baggage, or unusual patterns of motion, such as the typical behavior exhibited by pickpockets. However, the extent to which this technology can be used to aid future security measures will probably depend in large part on the extent to which it can be reconciled with statutory data protection regulations.

Innovative barriers

A suggestion made by the EU Commission is far less technical, but could be highly effective. It calls for innovative, discreet barriers to better protect European inner cities from terrorist attacks. These would theoretically prevent incidents such as the truck attacks in Nice and on the Christmas market in Berlin as well as the attack on pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge, without making cities feel less ‘open.’ Ever since the 2016 attack on the Berlin Christmas market, trucks or containers have been installed at key points during large-scale public events in Germany to protect entire inner cities from similar attacks, among serving other purposes. It is currently not yet clear to what extent the barriers suggested by the EU could permanently replace these kinds of measures.

Flying cameras

The use of drones is also being discussed. When these are equipped with biometric camera technology, for instance, they can boost security, particularly at large-scale events such as (street) festivals. However, many of the legal specifications regarding drone usage remain unclear. Key questions remain unanswered; for example, what requirements does a drone pilot have to fulfill? And how can drones be used in general? As things currently stand, drones are usually considered a risk instead of a tool. A drone loaded with explosives, for instance, is a dangerous weapon with a wide range. Moreover, the majority of suitable defense systems are still undergoing testing, and are not available or in use virtually anywhere.

Picture Credits: © chombosan/