By Hannah Devlin, The Guardian, October 2019

Gordon’s wine bar is reached through a discreet side-door, a few paces from the slipstream of London theatregoers and suited professionals powering towards their evening train.

The bar’s Dickensian gloom is a selling point for people embarking on affairs, and actors or politicians wanting a quiet drink – but also for pickpockets. When Simon Gordon took over the family business in the early 2000s, he would spend hours scrutinising the faces of the people who haunted his CCTV footage. “There was one guy who I almost felt I knew,” he says. “He used to come down here the whole time and steal.”

Gordon is in his early 60s, with sandy hair and a glowing tan that hints at regular visits to Italian vineyards. He makes an unlikely tech entrepreneur, but his frustration spurred him to launch Facewatch, a fast-track crime-reporting platform that allows clients (shops, hotels, casinos) to upload an incident report and CCTV clips to the police. Two years ago, when facial recognition technology was becoming widely available, the business pivoted from simply reporting into active crime deterrence.

Facewatch HQ is around the corner from Gordon’s, brightly lit and furnished like a tech company. Fisher invites me to approach a fisheye CCTV camera mounted at face height on the office wall; he reassures me that I won’t be entered on to the watchlist. The camera captures a thumbnail photo of my face, which is beamed to an “edge box” (a sophisticated computer) and converted into a string of numbers. My biometric data is then compared with that of the faces on the watchlist. I am not a match: “It has no history of you,” Fisher explains. However, when he walks in front of the camera, his phone pings almost instantly, as his face is matched to a seven-year-old photo that he has saved in a test watchlist.

“If you’re not a subject of interest, we don’t store any images,” Fisher says. “The argument that you walk in front of a facial recognition camera, and it gets stored and you get tracked is just.” He pauses. “It depends who’s using it.”

Read the full story via The Guardian