German soccer fans angered by face-scan plan

Reuters, Friday 3 Feb 2012

Football fans in one German state may have to pass through “face scanners” at stadiums, according to interior ministry proposals designed to eradicate hooliganism


The proposals, which entail comparing visitors’ biometric data to a database of known football rioters, have been denounced as Orwellian by one national fan association.

But the interior minister of the former east German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lorenz Caffier, said current measures to prevent hooligans from slipping past security in stadiums, such as match bans, were not working.

“Along with the help of personalised entrance tickets and face scanners, notorious rioters can be effectively kept out of the stadiums,” said Caffier in a statement.

“We have to go beyond the current discussions,” he said.

A study has been commissioned to determine the practical and legal feasibility of using the technology in stadiums, after which a pilot run of the scanners will be carried out.

In a country that has had a difficult relationship with surveillance in the past, any form of monitoring the population is met with suspicion.

“This idea is a disgrace to democracy and is reminiscent of Orwell’s 1984,” said Philipp Markhardt, spokesman for the national Pro-Fans association.

“The attempt to combat a problem with surveillance rather than attacking the root of the issue is out of touch with reality and, above all, is a drastic invasion of the civil liberties of individual fans,” he said.

Facial recognition technology has already been tried out in countries, such as Poland and Brazil, to try to eradicate a violent minority of fans from gaining entrance to matches.

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