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Don't be afraid of "Big Brother" technology

It sounds like something out of George Orwell's futuristic book 1984.

But if the thought of getting your face scanned when you withdraw cash seems a bit Big Brother, read on.

Canterbury Christ Church University’s Denis Edgar-Neville, said facial recognition technology could soon be a vital tool in the fight against crime.

Speaking after this week’s two-day cybercrime conference Mr Edgar-Neville, head of the university computing department, said people should see facial ID as a vital form of security and not as a restriction on their freedom.

It was presented as one of the themes at the second annual International Conference on Cybercrime Forensics Education and Training, which looked at other problems in intrusive viruses and better education for parents about the risks of online child exploitation.

~ Listen to Mr Edgar-Neville 's comments on how to keep safe online.

The facial ID technology works by taking a digital image of a person’s face, which recognises features such as distances between the eyes and nose and records that information on a central computer database.

Mr Edgar-Neville said: “It would be an absolute good thing for Kent.

“Many people see these sorts of systems as a restriction of freedom. But you have to look at the other side of the coin it’s all about protecting you and recognising people who shouldn’t be in a particular location or trying to access a particular place.

“If I was going to travel on an aeroplane, on the ferries from Dover or through the Channel Tunnel I would want to be protected.”

But he stressed that there were still ethical issues surrounding the technology.

Mr Edgar-Neville added: “If the system looked at a face and said it was a person who should be not there, a terrorist or someone trying to take money out of a bank but it was in fact an innocent person what would happen to them? There needs to be a process developed so there is another way of checking the validity of a person.

“You would also have to update the biometric information on a regular basis as people change, get older and put on weight that could change the pattern of recognition.”

Overall he said he was optimistic as the technology was being perfected and becoming cheaper it could become an invaluable tool for our security.

“It’s more of a technology of the future. Some people may have been through airports and been involved in various trials of facial and iris recognition.

“It’s something which is happening now and the technologies are getting better and cheaper. Clearly there are ethnical issues about how it’s used. But it’s wrong to believe it’s a big brother mentality. You should look at it as a very positive development which is making travel, commerce and industry and financial transactions that little bit safer because it is an area of increasing crime and criminals are getting more sophisticated.

“I would like to see it in place at entry ports and I would feel more secure if it was also in place in different areas such as ATM machines. If the technology becomes perfected to that degree why not make sure the person tapping in the code number to withdraw £100 from your bank account is in fact you and not somebody pretending to be you, who has stolen your card.”

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