Germany considers introducing facial recognition software

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere wants to use facial recognition technology in video cameras at airports and train stations to help identify terror suspects.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere attends the cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, August 17, 2016.

Germany's Interior Minister wants to introduce facial recognition software at train stations and airports to help identify terror suspects following two DAESH attacks in the country last month.

Speaking to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Thomas de Maiziere said internet software was able to determine whether persons shown in photographs were celebrities or politicians.

"I would like to use this kind of facial recognition technology in video cameras at airports and train stations. Then, if a suspect appears and is recognised, it will show up in the system," he told the paper.

He said a similar system was already being tested for unattended luggage, which the camera reports after a certain number of minutes.

Other countries are also looking at such technology, but Germans have traditionally been sceptical of surveillance due to abuses by the Stasi secret police in East Germany and the Gestapo under the Nazis.

Germans are on edge after DAESH terrorists claimed two attacks in July, one on a train near Wuerzburg and one at a music festival in Ansbach, in which asylum-seekers injured 20 people.

As a result, organisers of the world's biggest beer festival, Munich's Oktoberfest, have raised security, including banning rucksacks, introducing security checks at all entrances and erecting fencing.

De Maiziere said a ban on rucksacks at large-scale events could also be useful, adding that it would be up to on-site security officials to take that decision.

"We will have to get used to increased security measures, such as longer queues, stricter checks or personal entry cards. This is tedious, uncomfortable and costs time but I don't think it's a limitation of personal freedom," he said.