Privacy concerns have been raised over an upcoming surveillance project slated to take place at the Osaka Station. A 2-year experiment that involves monitoring the movements of people arriving at the Osaka train station through a facial recognition system. The test will be conducted by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, a government-affiliated organization, in collaboration with West Japan Railway Co and operator of Osaka Station, Osaka Terminal Building Co.
With the results of the experiment, NICCT wants to provide information on the way people use and move around the station. 90 cameras will be set up in the station, which will monitor and track chosen individuals for a week. A recognition system will take note of some of the individual’s characteristics and be assigned a specific ID number. Data from the experiment will be given to JR West after two years for free. However, NIICT promises to delete the images and just maintain the data related to the subject before handing it over. They hope that the information they will get will aid the authorities in coming up with specific evacuation and disaster management plans.
Lawyer Ryoji Mori, who is highly knowledgeable in cases involving personal information said, “There remains a risk of privacy infringement even if only characteristics of a person’s face are gathered.” Mori noted that there is still a chance “individuals could be identified if the data is correlated with photos taken from Facebook and other media outlets.” He warned against collecting facial data with no specific purpose. “At least, it should be displayed in an easy-to-understand manner as to where people are being filmed and for what purpose,” said Mori.
NIICT vowed to put up signs informing the people coming and going at the Osaka Station that a biometric experiment is underway. However, the said signs will not be posted on areas where the cameras are set up and people will have no idea where the cameras are located. NIICT’s Tadashi Noumi assuaged concerns on the privacy threat by saying that their organization will process data using a system that may not replicate the image to protect the person involved. A panel of experts called for further talks on the matter to come up with stricter measures that would help individuals monitored not to be identified.
[via Asahi Shimbun]