JR East representatives say change of plans is due to “lack of societal consent”.

In light of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, major train company JR East upped their security game by installing facial recognition cameras at stations in an attempt to curb possible terrorism attacks. Using their database of images collected from JR East station surveillance cameras, the facial recognition cameras identify three groups of people: the first being persons that were previously imprisoned for committing serious crimes against JR East or JR East passengers, the second being named criminal suspects, and the third being suspicious persons.

But not anymore. On September 21, JR East announced that they have unregistered anyone in the first group due to a “lack of societal consent”. There isn’t a definitive set of rules in Japan regarding what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to facial recognition, which seems to be what’s making the JR Group err on the side of caution until clearer guidelines are set.

But why just one group? Even though people in the first group have committed crimes in the stations or on the trains, they are considered people that have already finished carrying out their sentences. Continuing to single them out could count as invasive surveillance since when a registered person was recognized on the camera’s system, station attendants would be required to confirm their identity, then possibly inform officers and even search them if deemed necessary.

Japanese netizens reacted on social media with a mixture of surprise and disagreement.

“I think preventing major crimes from happening again is more important.”
“Shouldn’t we be surveilling them??”
“Okay, stop this for about a week, then please start it again.”
“If there’s a legal problem that could possibly affect our safety and lifestyle, I feel like we should amend it. Even if they’ve finished their sentence, they could still recommit crimes.”

According to the latest news, JR East does plan to reinstate this system once there are clearer guidelines about facial recognition. Whatever the case, it’s clear that train stations are feeling the pressure to step up their security game in light of recent train-related attacks.

Sources: Yomiuri Shimbun via Yahoo! Japan News via Otaku.com, Bengoshi.com News via Yahoo! Japan News, Twitter
Top image: Pakutaso
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