Brazilian police introduces live facial recognition for Carnival

Millions of faces are being added to the police database; the plan is to use the technology in events involving crowds to find wanted criminals.

The use of facial recognition technology in Brazil has evolved and is now in place in the largest possible laboratory: the Carnival.

Live facial recognition had been used in Brazil during Carnival at a much smaller scale last year. In 2020, it has been rolled out by police forces for the first time across six capitals across the country. While automatically cataloging the faces of several million people partying on the streets and the "sambadromes", where the world-famous parades take place, another aim is to find wanted criminals.

In São Paulo, the country's largest urban center, the technology is supported by dozens of cameras sending the facial images to the police's database, which before the Carnival already had information related to over 32 million faces.

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When announcing the use of live facial recognition, the São Paulo police said a "situation room" would monitor the images from the cameras, which are then compared with a database managed by a biometrics lab. According to the police, the team behind the scenes and officials working in the field would reduce the likelihood of mistakes, such as wrongly arresting people.

The police of São Paulo now plans to use the system in various other events with crowds involved where there is potential for conflict and criminal activity. The city of São Paulo estimates over 15 million people will be on the streets during Carnival - this is an increase of 25% on last year's numbers. The traditional Brazilian party officially ends tomorrow (26) at noon.

The use of facial recognition in Brazil elsewhere in the public sector has been controversial. Last year, the country's consumer rights body Idec notified the government's social security technology firm Dataprev over its plans to procure biometric technology in a mobile platform that employs the technology in order to reduce fraud and simplify processes.