Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Technology of Facial Recognition

by Andrea Campbell

Television and movies are famous for zeroing in on the technologies of the present and future. Some are outrageous such as the vertical mid-air computer manipulation screens and the holograms used for facial reconstruction--fascinating but most cities’ law enforcement and forensic science divisions are cash-strapped, so fantasy is more the reality. There is one thing though that criminal justice has been good at, and that’s compiling information, mainly data in regards to identification.

The History of Identification
In 1924, the Criminal Justice Information Services created an FBI Identification division that began with the collection of fingerprints. Prior to that, things were fairly unsophisticated and rather chaotic in terms of holes--states were responsible for their own mug shots and fingerprint collections and since information was collected manually, if a perpetrator crossed state lines, his slate was temporarily clean. The need for centralization and an organized repository wasn’t really met until as late as 1999. Instead of mug shots, photographs and criminal history traveling through the U.S. mail and processed manually, the IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint System), system improved all that. Now with the launch of IAFIS, it made it easy to search, process and store data electronically. Wherever a suspect went, his identification could follow.

The New Generation
With the advent of a growing demand for identification services, the FBI stepped up its criminal justice data system with its new Next Generation Identification or NGI program. Previously, the technology infrastructure was fast becoming obsolete. Just as you have to stay current with upgrading your computer software and equipment--with all the identification requests the FBI receives, they were struggling to fulfill their mission. So while NGI attempts to shore up its reputation, staying a global leader in biometrics is a feat. Because biometric submissions come from tribal, local, state, federal, international and other intelligence systems, the rapidly expanding database is a race--and the timeline for upgrade was posed as a multi-year time frame developed with incremental phases (or one step at a time).

Our Identification Rights
Generally what happens as new technologies evolve, its development has a tendency to stop on people’s rights, that is to say, their right to privacy, searches or just by being required to submit to varied forms of ID.

There are federal codes however, that provide much-needed authorization for such information and it can be found in U.S. Code, number 28 to be more precise, and it outlines how to acquire, collect, classify and preserve such identification and crime records. The exchange of this data between agencies must follow guidelines set out in section 534 of the same code, and section 3771 outlines the authorization for the FBI director to develop new approaches, techniques and devices.

Several of the program increments for the NGI platform have been completed like: increasing the true match rate of fingerprints to 99.6 percent and providing the ability to process less than ten prints as well. Another program named RISC (or the: Repository for Individual of Special Concern) was also completed that helps to ID wanted persons, suspected terrorists, persons of special interest and sex offenders. A National Palm Print directory is on the agenda for next spring, 2013, and Increment 4 called Rap Back, Facial and Scars, Marks and Tattoo search capabilities should be up and running summer 2014. The National Rap Back service is all about notifying searchers about folks who are already in the criminal system, and will include Facial and SMT--Scars, Marks and Tattoo--designs for investigation purposes.

Next Generation for Facial Recognition
A pilot program debuted in 2012 for facial recognition, but should be fully operational summer of 2014. This will make possible image-based facial recognition searches of the FBI’s national repository. What comes back from a search will be a list of candidates to investigate. The bank of photos are based on criminal mug shots that were taken as a part of the booking process during arrest. The concerns have been that photos from other sources like Facebook, or surveillance cameras would be used but the FBI site says they will not use those as sources. Currently the National Repository holds approximately 12.8 million searchable frontal photos. The FBI claim that only authorized criminal justice agencies can query, and the requests are processed in what’s referred to as a, “lights out” manner, meaning that no one person prepares the ranked candidates list--it is constructed without human intervention.

A government act called the “Interstate Photo System Privacy Impact Assessment” (PIA) is in a renewable phase as any evolutionary changes that have since come into fruition will be reevaluated since June 2008. States that have already sampled the facial recognition as part of a pilot program will still need to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that reiterates why they need the information and how they intend to use it. The Facial Recognition pilot should be fully functional summer 2014.


Cozy in Texas said...

Thanks for all the interesting info. I met our local medical examiner at an event recently and he gave me a little insight into the differences of CSI and what really happens.

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