Monday, January 23, 2017

"Security researcher cautions against striking Japan’s favorite picture pose"

Text from Japan Today, 1/12/17.

Japan has always loved photography, even back when taking a picture meant fiddling with switches and dials. That sentiment has only intensified now that just about everyone over the age of 15 is walking around with a smartphone that can be used to swiftly snap a pic and share it with friends online.

As such, no gathering of classmates or coworkers is complete without a commemorative photo. Even solo achievements, like finding a really tasty crepe or getting a stylish new haircut, often call for a celebratory selfie, usually while smiling for the camera and holding up two fingers to make a peace sign.

Isao Echizen, a professor at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, has no problem with the selfie phenomenon. However, if you’re using one hand to take the picture, he says it’s wise to keep the fingertips of the other out of frame. That’s because consumer camera technology and image quality has now progressed to the level, Echizen says, where your fingerprint data can be derived from a photo of your fingertips.

In an experiment, Echizen was able to obtain fingerprint data from photos taken as much as three meters away from the subject’s exposed fingertips. That’s a distance far greater than even the tallest person’s arm, and so the results suggest that if you’re taking a selfie while giving a peace sign with your off-hand, you’re putting your fingerprint data at risk.

Echizen goes on to say that celebrities, because of the large stockpile of photos of them in festive situations, are at the greatest risk, but even many non-famous people use their fingerprint to lock their smartphones or for security measures in the office. And as Echizen points out, once your data has been compromised, there’s not much you can do about it. If someone hacks your password, you can change it, but you’re pretty much stuck with the fingerprints you were born with.


Friday, January 20, 2017

"Security camera footage helps spot suspects in over 10,000 crimes"

From Japan Today, 1/20/17:

Japanese police used footage from surveillance or dashboard cameras to identify suspects in more than 10,000 criminal cases last year, provisional police data showed Thursday.

The number of suspected violations of the Penal Code that came to police attention in 2016 fell below 1 million for the first time in postwar Japan, the National Police Agency also said, partially crediting security cameras with the decrease.

But there are persistent public concerns about overreliance on such cameras, as there have been cases in which innocent people were wrongly accused because police neglected other investigative work.

There are also fears about invasion of privacy. With more surveillance cameras expected to be installed in the coming years, privacy advocates are calling for judicious use of the devices.

According to the agency, the number of criminal cases built by the police last year totaled 22,318. Of those, 5.9%, or 12,994, involved footage from security or dashboard cameras in positively identifying suspects.

Such footage has now become “indispensable in investigations,” a senior agency official said, with data showing footage from such cameras has proven effective, mainly in uncovering street crimes.

By crime category, snatch-and-run offenses accounted for the most, 20.4% of the criminal cases in which security or dashboard camera footage proved decisive in identifying suspects, followed by pick pocketing at 12.3%, burglary at 10.8%, and indecent assaults at 10.3%.

As of last March, 1,530 security cameras had been installed by police across the country. Numerous security cameras have also been installed by private firms and individuals.

The data also showed that the number of suspected criminal cases that came to police attention in 2016 was 996,204, down 9.4% from a year earlier, and slipping below 1 million for the first time in postwar history. The number of such cases per 1,000 people fell to 7.8, a fresh postwar low.

Among the crimes, the number of attempted murder and murder cases totaled 896, down by 37 from the previous year and the lowest since the end of World War II.