Taiwan Railways withdraws controversial facial recognition system

Taiwan Railways Administration announced on Wednesday to drop the plan of implementing the facial recognition system in the transport network. (Courtesy Railway Bureau)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA, 台鐵局) withdrew on Wednesday its plan to implement a facial recognition system throughout its transport network.

Due to legal concerns and risks of privacy infringement, the TRA has asked the Railway Police Bureau (鐵警局) and Railway Bureau (鐵道局) to cancel the planned facial recognition function and delete the police watch list from the system, TRA said in the statement.

The system went on trial a day earlier at Fengyuan Station (豐原車站) in Taichung with the purpose of preventing irregularities from disrupting railway operations, according to the Railway Bureau,

The trial drew tremendous backlash over privacy intrusion concerns after authorities unveiled the plan on Tuesday.

The decision to spend nearly NT$26 million (US$852,000) to develop the system was made after a mass stabbing occurred in Taipei Metro in May 2014, according to the statement.

The random attack resulted in four dead and 24 injuries and aroused concerns over safety in public transportation.

According to TRA’s statement, the system is capable of alerting the railway staff about abnormality such as people falling on the railway and someone unusually staying in the station for a long time, and thus allowing the staff to deal with incidents promptly.

By Carol Kan