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Mega-events are a prime opportunity for security based technological testing and the overall expansion of the global security industrial market. The spectacular moment of the ‘world’s next great event’ provides unique leverage for deploying some of the latest in security and surveillance technologies and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is no exception to this trend.
Military Police officials from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are already using futuristic ‘Robocop-style’ glasses at football matches and concerts in preparation for one of the world’s largest sporting events. The biometric technology is fitted to glasses and boasts a small facial recognition camera that can capture “400 facial images per second” by comparing “46 000 points on a face”. Images can be captured effectively at distances as far as 50 meters away and can be further calibrated to recognize faces as far away as a staggering 12 miles. The captured images are then relayed to an information database that can store up to 13 million faces and alerts the user in real-time if further action or an arrest is necessary.
The ‘Robo-cop style’ technology is particularly controversial because it circumvents the tradition of police officers asking for documents on the basis of reasonable grounds for suspicion. However, according to Major Leandro Pavani Agostini of Sao Paulo’s Military Police, this is precisely where its advantage lies, saying police engagement is “something discreet because you do not question the person or ask for documents. The computer does it.”
The device is now being rolled out in airports and bus terminals, away from the events themselves. Questions remain whether the technology is being deployed in the more impoverished favelas of Brazil that faced significant military pressure during the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games and which is again facing economic displacement and security scrutiny in the run up to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. One thing however is for certain, intensified low-level facial recognition identification systems are allowing Brazilian police to collect and store personal information for future use, raising ongoing concerns about public accountability and civil liberties in the lead-up to the two major sporting events.