One of our very first thoughts, upon learning that Facial Recognition image processing was actually being deployed on the streets of London, in the Borough of Newham, was that if the system had any success at all in picking out individual faces from a crowd, then it would not be difficult to use such a system to racially classify people by skin colour.
Polymath Engineer and Artist Benjamin Males has succeeded in raising ethical questions about the desirability of such uses of the technology, by demonstrating that it can be done, nowadays, reasonably cheaply, using open source image processing software and a professional CCTV camera.
Target Project (2008) - Benjamin Males
RTS-2 is a racial targeting system. A fully portable real-time image processing platform, RTS-2 has the ability to automatically find and follow faces and then analyse and store their race data.
The project illustrates the potential use (misuse?) of surveillance and automatic analysis technologies and exists to critique and raise questions concerning our experiences of them.
RTS-2 will be shown and demonstrated at part 2 of the Royal College of Art Graduation show from 25th June to 5th July. Other outcomes from the project, including a device that measures and stores weight data will also be shown and demonstrated.
Benjamin Males is a graduating student from Platform 11 of the prestigious Design Products course at the Royal College of Art in London. Having graduated from Imperial College in 2006 with First Class honours in Mechanical Engineering (MEng), Benjamin applies an advanced knowledge of the physical world to create works that explore our relationship with the technologies that surround us.
High resolution images are available on request.
When he demonstrated this working art installation in Japan recently, he was asked whether or not it could pick out Koreans from from ethnic Japanese.
His work demonstrates vividly, that the visible camera electro optics are only part of a modern Surveillance Camera system and the technology already exists which could easily be used for racially discriminatory "security" monitoring or harassment of ethnic minorities.