Malaysia readies facial recognition system to fight crime

GOVERNMENTS are getting increasingly confident about facial recognition technology. Most recently, Malaysia installed a new facial recognition system to help fight crime in the state of Penang.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said that the new system uses technology from IBM and is expected to enhance the 767 closed circuit cameras installed by the Penang Island City Council.

“This technology, which is capable of detecting the faces of criminals or people wanted by the police, will be operated from the CCTV control room of the MBPP and the Penang police headquarters.

“The monitoring via CCTV is an initiative by the Penang state government to reduce crime, especially street crimes, in an effort to maintain the safety and well-being of the people,” Minister Chow said at the launch.

The government spent MYR46.2 million (US$11.15 million) on the cameras thus far, and said that the current project involves spending another MYR 12 million (US$2.9 million) on the technology and on the installation of an additional 150 cameras.

Penang Island City Council Mayor Yew Tung Seang believes that the new system can help increase the efficiency of the police force in preventing and resolving criminal cases.

In the case of a snatch theft on the street, for example, the cameras could not only help identify the criminal but also alert the police about his whereabouts — all using IBM’s facial recognition technology.

IBM and Amazon are among the top providers of facial recognition technology to police and regulatory bodies. In recent years, several states and provinces in the US, the UK, China, and the UAE have started exploring the technology — and there have been some hiccups.

According to The Independent, facial recognition software used by the Metropolitan Police force has returned false positives in more than 98 percent of cases. The system used by the South Wales Police, on the other hand, has returned more than 2,400 false positives in 15 deployments since June 2017.

China, on the other hand, has been delivering success after success with its facial recognition system. In fact, one of the biggest victories was when a suspect was identified among a crowd of 60,000 Jacky Cheung concert goers in Jiaxing, a city in eastern Zhejiang province.

In Malaysia, only time will tell how effective the system is and what the investment actually delivers in terms of results.

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