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Hooligan detector tested for Euro 2008

Biometrics could help tackle football hooliganism

(Keystone)

A security system using biometric data to identify hooligans will be tested at an ice hockey game in Bern on Friday in preparation for the Euro 2008 tournament.

But Switzerland, which is co-hosting the football championship, must pass new laws liberalising the use of such data before the system can be introduced as intended in three years' time.

The ice hockey match between SC Bern and EHC Basel will be the first sporting event in Switzerland to employ such technology, called BioSafety.

Cameras inside and outside the stadium will take pictures of fans' faces that will be measured by the system to form a face map and compared with 100 Bern fans who have volunteered to be in a test database.

If the system goes live at Euro 2008 this database will contain images of known hooligans and the authorities will be alerted if there is a match with someone trying to get into the grounds.

Designers Unisys claim BioSafety has a 95-per-cent matching success rate if it has a clear image, but the effectiveness could drop if facial features are masked with a beard, glasses or peaked cap.

Federal Data Protection Commissioner Hanspeter Thür told swissinfo that the test will determine how accurate the system is at recognising faces, but said the law must be changed to allow personal details to be used in such a way without consent.

"We must ensure that there is a legal procedure to enter the biometric data of hooligans in a database," he said. "Such a law does not exist in Switzerland at the moment, but I hope it will be realised in the next two years."

The law must establish who controls the data, which third parties have access, the right of appeal of people on the database and rules against abuse of information, Thür added.

Identification aid

Parliament is currently discussing moves to create a database along with temporary measures for dealing with troublemakers at Euro 2008, which include travel restrictions, excluding people from stadiums and a 24-hour detention period.

SC Bern will trial BioSafety at a number of games this season. Several hundred troublemakers are currently banned from Swiss stadiums and commercial director Rolf Bachmann believes it will help security officials keep tabs on hooligans.

"At the moment we have spotters who know who these people are, but they sometimes have problems making positive identifications," he told swissinfo.

"We are always looking at innovative ways of improving safety for our supporters and this system appears to offer a solution."

Thür is confident that the Swiss people will not oppose the technology on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties.

"I think in this society it will be accepted if it is clear that it will only be used against real hooligans. I think there will be an acceptance for such control," he said.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

Key facts

Biometrics is the science of recognising individuals based on their unique biological and behavioural characteristics.
Such characteristics can include facial geometry, fingerprints, retina and also behavioural patterns such as walking gait, lip motion and voice.
Biometric technology has already been used in Switzerland to produce swimming pool season cards, passenger verification at airports and to authenticate identity at public concerts.

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