Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Smile, You're on Candid Camera!

by blogger jmj

A forgery and theft case in Pierce County, Washington was solved with the use of facial recognition software being pilot tested by the Pierce County Sheriff's Department. An ATM surveillance image was compared to 16 years' worth of mug shots taken at the Pierce County Jail using Sagem Morpho Inc.'s new facial recognition software, MorphoFace. It took less than 15 minutes to find a match. The property crime case, that likely would have gotten cast to the side, ended with an arrest and conviction.

The software was used in Tampa, FL in 2001 during Super Bowl XXXV where scans of spectators identified 19 people with criminal records. However, none were wanted by authorities at the time. Airports looked into the use of facial recognition cameras as an added security measure after 9/11, but opponents raised concerns over privacy and argued the technology was intrusive and ineffective.

The difference with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department is that the software is being used as an investigative tool to identify likely suspects in a specific crime, not to just scan crowds looking for felons. The Sheriff's Department is also testing the software to gauge its accuracy.

To test the software's accuracy, Wilkins checks whether it can match current mug shots of repeat offenders currently in the jail with their previous booking photos.

He goes through the daily bookings and selects the men and women who have been locked up before. He takes their most recent mug shots and uploads them into MorphoFace.

The program is asked to find possible matches in a database of more than 479,000 mug shots of people booked into the jail, the Remann Hall juvenile jail and the Puyallup City Jail since 1992.

MorphoFace uses algorithms to measure the location of a person's eyes and builds a model of the face that is compared with the mug shots in the database.

"It will recognize unique patterns in each person's face," Hess said.

Tests of the software have shown that it spots whom it should about 90 percent of the time.


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Anonymous said...

Since this was being tested and works 90% of the time, I believe all of the police departments should use this technology. E.G.

Anonymous said...

The possibilities for closing cold cases using this technology is great! While the software is currently only 90% effective, it still has the potential to match faces on film and photos from stale cases to known criminal databases. I'm not sure how well it will stand up in courts though with it having a 10% chance for error. While it would allow for leads in cases, lawyers would probably need more hard evidence to convict a person as I don't think the one piece of facial recognition evidence would be enough to get a solid conviction.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how effective the software package does with handling altered images. Would it still work with enhanced images? How susceptible is it to being fooled with forged or altered images?


Anonymous said...

I believe most police departments should implement this as the accuracy level (90%) is very high. However, one must remember at the same time, that images can be easily altered and so concrete evidence must also be supplied to convict a suspect.


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