Face Recognition Technology is Just
by Hardly Waite, Gazette
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
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
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."