Would I Trust My Life To This Weapon?

In some pilot installations, the photos on the face of non-electronic identity cards or passports are scanned and compared to the live scan of the passenger’s face for a match. At the same time, attributes of the document itself are examined to verify that they are valid, that they have not expired, and that the name on the card matches the name on the boarding pass.

Despite problems with image quality on many of these documents, this type of solution will be required for quite some time until all government-issued identity documents are able to store biometric templates. And, photo matching to a live person’s face is exactly what is being done when the airline or TSA agent inspects a document and then looks at the person.

20% more accurate than those agents in trials. A variation of this identity verification approach is being used at many airports for customs and border control. The facial biometric template stored on the person’s electronic passport is compared against their live face to confirm their identity.

This approach can considerably reduce border crossing delays, allowing agents to concentrate their time on passengers who need manual processing, allowing the others to quickly proceed through the gate. 3. Biometrics for Law Enforcement and Criminal InvestigationsIn the case of known criminals or terrorists, biometric matching uses a particular biometric known to belong to the individuals, and that is compared to biometric images collected from crime scenes.

This can include fingerprints on a murder weapon, or a security camera image of someone breaking into a gas station. This process is like the old “Mug-Shot” books police used to refer to, only much faster. Based on experience, there is a figure used by police forces claiming that up to 80% of crimes are committed by repeat offenders.

So it makes sense to compare crime scene biometrics to the collected biometrics of known felons from the last time they were caught. International and domestic terrorists are more of a challenge because there is often no stored database of the suspect’s fingerprints or facial images.

Poor quality, grainy images that may be several years old, yield very low probability biometric match results, but the systems are getting much better. In either case, the investigator needs the actual original fingerprint or facial image to work from as a starting point. This is where the news media usually gets it wrong.

Actual fingerprints recovered from a crime scene are matched against the various fingerprint databases, such as IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System), that are available to police and security forces. Biometric templates used for access control cannot be used for this. Facial Recognition and Video CamerasAlternatively, a picture of a known terror suspect can be matched against stored pictures, or even video clips, of crowds of people arriving at an airport or other transportation hubs to make sure that the individual in question is not coming into the country.

The need for these cameras in public spaces is absolute, and the fact that one of these cameras will also see many innocent people is inevitable. What government agencies do with those captured images of innocent people is really the question that needs to be asked with respect to privacy.

If they only keep them long enough to process the image matches, say a few days, before they irretrievably discard them, that is generally acceptable. However, if they permanently store all captured images of all persons walking through a specific area, people tend to get nervous.

The Boston Bombers were eventually identified using stored videos of the crowds. Is it good that they were identified and brought to justice? Yes. Is it appropriate that all of those stored images of mostly innocent people were accessible and used? That is the real subject of the privacy debate, and well beyond the scope of this blog post.