Face Recognition Technology is Just Window Dressing 

by Hardly Waite, Gazette Senior Editor

If you're still waiting for technology to "make us safe," don't hold your breath. In fact, recent history should prove that it's a relatively weak tool.  Our nuclear arsenal and sophisticated weaponry were of no consequence when pitted against some really angry people and box cutters. 

Someone has said, "No one has yet devised a way to keep anger off an airplane."

Here is a cut from an article by Thomas C. Green that appeared  in early January 2001 in The Register.  As the title says, "Face Recognition Technolgy Is a Proven Farce."

Crowd surveillance kit using face recognition technology by Visionics has been a comic failure in tests by the Tampa, Florida police, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has discovered.

By leveraging the Florida open-records law, the watchdog organization obtained system logs proving that the Visionics contraption has thus far failed to identify one single crook or pervert listed in the department's photographic database, while falsely identifying 'a large number' of innocent citizens.

"The earliest logs provided by the department show activity for July 12, 13, 14, and 20, 2001. On those dates, the system operators logged fourteen instances in which the system indicated a possible match. Of the fourteen matches on those four days, all were false alarms," the ACLU notes.

The Tampa coppers started using the system in June of this year, and abandoned it in August.

The Register was the first publication to report, back in September, that face recognition technology is essentially useless in crowd-surveillance situations. (We're glad to see the ACLU following our lead here.)

Unfortunately, a number of US airports are investing in the Visionics technology and a similar scam kit from Viisage for window dressing to reassure frightened passengers that terrorists can be caught by automated cameras.

Anyone tempted to imagine that the airline industry, the FAA and the DoT are in any way concerned about passenger safety should consult this article by the New York Times, which reveals that the US Department of Transportation "will not insist that [airport] screeners be high school graduates, a requirement that would have disqualified a quarter of the present work force of 28,000."



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