A research to be conducted by the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in April plans to use facial recognition technology to track people and monitor their behavior. The data from the study that will be conducted at a train station will be used to better analyze the movement of people to help improve evacuation during disasters.
Around 90 cameras will be placed in the Osaka Station, particularly at the ticket gates, escalators, coin lockers, shops and other areas for the study. Osaka Station was the best choice to conduct the study due to its high volume of traffic. An estimated 820,000 passengers use it while at least 320 million people have visited the stores located in the station building since opening in May 2011. The study is scheduled for two years, after which, data will be forwarded to West Japan Railway Co. for free. The company who will provide the facial recognition system boasted of its technology as having 99.9 percent accuracy. The cameras will photograph people’s faces and assign each one an ID. When another camera recognizes the person, it will record the time and location and the person’s movements tracked for a week.
The study poses a problem with regards to the Personal Information Protection Law. The law states that people must be informed if they are being photographed. Lawyer Yoichiro Itakura noted that, “A station is a public area, so people who don’t want their faces identified can’t really avoid it.” He further said, “It’s inappropriate to have selected a place for the study where users have no other choice. At the very least, they should put up a clear notification before one enters the study area.”
Another study using data from a smartphone’s Wi-Fi signals was conducted last May by KDDI Corp and Mitsui & Co. Devices. Their service collected ID numbers form smartphones who access the internet using the Wi-Fi device. The data is then used to track people’s movements. The study was done in Grandberry Mall in Machida, Tokyo. People were advised of the study with the aid of Wi-Fi coupons that advises customers to download the app. Any customer whose information location has been included but did not download the app, was not included in the data for analysis.
[via Yomiuri Shimbun]