German Minister Wants Facial Recognition Systems at Airports, Train Stations

BERLIN (Reuters) -
German Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere (4th L) leaves after visiting the Olympia shopping mall, where yesterday's shooting rampage started, in Munich, Germany July 23, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere (4th L.) leaves after visiting the Olympia shopping mall, where a shooting attack occurred in Munich, Germany, July 23. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann)

Germany’s interior minister wants to introduce facial recognition software at train stations and airports to help identify terror suspects following two Islamist terror 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 recognized, 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 skeptical of surveillance due to abuses by the Stasi secret police in East Germany and the Gestapo under the Nazis.

Germans are on edge after the Islamic State terror group 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, organizers of a mass event in Munich have raised security issues, 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 make 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.