AI cameras used to detect train passengers’ emotions, Five Eyes Data-Sharing, Free Speech at Risk

1 month ago

It has been revealed that train passengers across the UK had their emotions recorded by AI cameras without their knowledge.

Images of passengers were analyzed by Amazon Rekognition software, which can detect emotions such as happiness, sadness, and hunger.

Network Rail took photographs of people passing through ticket barriers as part of a trial started in 2022, according to documents obtained by the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch.

The system, tested at stations like London Euston, Glasgow, Leeds, and Reading, also recorded demographic details such as gender and age range.

Documents obtained through a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed that Network Rail said this analysis could be used to "measure satisfaction" and "maximize advertising and retail revenue."

The cameras were part of a larger trial using AI to address issues like trespassing, overcrowding, bicycle theft, and slippery floors.

Jake Hurfurt, head of research and investigations at Big Brother Watch, stated: “Network Rail had no right to deploy discredited emotion recognition technology against unwitting commuters at some of Britain’s biggest stations, and I have submitted a complaint to the Information Commissioner about this trial.

“It is alarming that as a public body, it decided to conduct a large-scale trial of Amazon-made AI surveillance in several stations without public awareness, especially when Network Rail mixed safety tech with pseudoscientific tools and suggested the data could be given to advertisers.

“Technology can help make the railways safer, but there needs to be a public debate about the necessity and proportionality of the tools used.

“AI-powered surveillance could put all our privacy at risk, especially if misused, and Network Rail’s disregard of those concerns shows a contempt for our rights.”

A Network Rail spokesperson responded: “We take the security of the rail network extremely seriously and use a range of advanced technologies across our stations to protect passengers, our colleagues, and the railway infrastructure from crime and other threats.

“When we deploy technology, we work with the police and security services to ensure that we’re taking proportionate action, and we always comply with the relevant legislation regarding the use of surveillance technologies.”

According to The Times, the AI trial continues, but the part analyzing emotions and demographics has ended.

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