During the 2013 Boston Calling music festivals, the Boston police department used a facial recognition surveillance system to keep an eye on those who attended. Thousands of faces were captured, according to Dig Boston, via ten cameras that could perform so-called “intelligent video analysis” in real time.
The story is an interesting one, something that revolves around Dig Boston’s reporters “searching the deep web” and spotting unsecured documents related to the Boston Calling surveillance programs. IBM is said to have worked with law enforcement in providing a facial recognition system that would tag “every person” that attended.
IBM is said to have licensed an Intelligent Operations Center, and at the heart of it all was a system being tested via Boston Calling surveillance that analyzed, in real time, things like faces and bodies, skin color, clothing, traffic patterns, and more. In addition, information nabbed from social networks was integrated in real time and factored into the overall equation.
There is a division between what the Boston PD says about the discovery and what the alleged documents reveal. According to Dig Boston, the docs have photos of police officers watching the IBM system while the music festival took place, but a statement from the department said, “BPD was not part of this initiative. We do not and have not used or possess this type of technology.”
Boston Mayor’s press secretary had different things to say, however, confirming that surveillance was used during the two music festivals, summing it up by saying that ultimately the city didn’t go with the software, because it had “not seen a clear use case for this software that held practical value for the City’s public safety needs.”