Dubai to Introduce Facial Recognition Systems on Public Transport

By Bill Toulas / October 26, 2020

The Transport Security Department in the emirate of Dubai has announced a plan to activate a comprehensive facial recognition system that will cover the entire public transport infrastructure in the city. As the officials stated, they are already using automated systems that check visitors for high fever, so they can simply upgrade the existing cameras for fully-fledged facial recognition.

This will help the police do their job and enhance security in metro stations. Moreover, it will help them improve their readiness to deal with emergencies. The Police’s Transport Security Department head, Jamal Rashed, has stated that it took the agency a minimum of five hours to identify a suspect among crowds previously. With the deployment of an AI-based surveillance and facial recognition system, this time will be brought down to a single minute.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the 37-year-old Crown Prince of Dubai, has made it clear that he wants to make the city a pioneer in technological developments and advanced systems, and facial recognition is just one part of this effort. Dubai is already a hub for technology and artificial intelligence in the Middle East, but the ultimate goal is to see it rise even higher and compete on a global scale.

Related: ‘Mercadona’ Probed by Data Protection Office for Facial Recognition Deployment

Already, the authorities tested parts of this new system on the Expo 2020 Metro Station, which is going to be where the visitors of the upcoming tech expo event are going to end up. The pilot test and relevant exercise involved 321 transport experts and security agents, simulating a range of emergency events on the station. Its size earned it the Guinness World Record for the largest workshop of this kind.

Expo 2020 is going to take place between October 2021 and March 2022, and it’s expected to draw an audience of 15 million people. Thus, safety and security are key concerns, especially during these times when people are hard to convince to attend any events.

Looking beyond all that, Dubai is contributing to the trend of upholding and rolling out facial recognition systems that are poorly overseen, aren’t underpinned by strict regulations, and could be used for replete mass surveillance. Wherever these systems are deployed, and no matter the reasons behind their installation and operation, they are staying.

From now on, Dubai residents will have to just accept the fact that they’re being surveilled, have their faces scanned and analyzed, matched with IDs, and populate a personal folder of logs and information about their whereabouts. Also, when information of this kind is stored on cloud networks, no matter the security measures, they are always subject to hacks and data leaks.

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