FBI to Launch Nationwide Facial Recognition Service

by Aliya Sternstein
NextGov
October 7, 2011

The federal government is embarking on a multiyear, $1 billion dollar overhaul of the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to more quickly and accurately identify suspects, partly through applying other biometric markers, such as iris scans and voice recordings.

As it happens with many other government power grab moves, this new initiative is surrounded by "convenience" in order for people to accept it more easily.

Often law enforcement authorities will “have a photo of a person and for whatever reason they just don’t know who it is [but they know] this is clearly the missing link to our case,” said Nick Megna, a unit chief at the FBI’s criminal justice information services division. The new facial recognition service can help provide that missing link by retrieving a list of mug shots ranked in order of similarity to the features of the subject in the photo.

Today, an agent would have to already know the name of an individual to pull up the suspect’s mug shot from among the 10 million shots stored in the bureau’s existing Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. Using the new Next-Generation Identification system that is under development, law enforcement analysts will be able to upload a photo of an unknown person; choose a desired number of results from two to 50 mug shots; and, within 15 minutes, receive identified mugs to inspect for potential matches. Users typically will request 20 candidates, Megna said. The service does not provide a direct match.

Michigan, Washington, Florida and North Carolina will participate in a test of the new search tool this winter before it is offered to criminal justice professionals across the country in 2014 as part of NGI. The project, which was awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. in 2008, already has upgraded the FBI’s fingerprint matching service.

Local authorities have the choice to file mug shots with the FBI as part of the booking process. The bureau expects its collection of shots to rival its repository of 70 million fingerprints once more officers are aware of the facial search’s capabilities.

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Quackery Science from DARPA: Smelling Threats

WIRED.com

No matter how well a terrorist covers their tracks, or how cool they are under pressure, the Pentagon wants to be able to detect, track, and even positively identify them from a distance. And they want to do it using nothing more than the heat and sweat that emanate from a person’s pores.

The military’s been after scent-based detection systems for years now. In 2007, Pentagon research agency Darpa solicited proposals for sensors to sniff out terrorists using unique genetic markers found in human emanations. The idea was based on research showing that mice each carried a unique “odortype” that was consistent despite variables like stress, hydration or diet. And odortypes are so powerful, they stick around for around a month after their host body has fled the premises.

But the most state-of-the-art tech, known as E-Nose, has only succeeded in distinguishing between two different people, and relies on “detecting human odor from the armpit region.” Now, the Army is launching Identification Based on Individual Scent (IBIS), and wants proposals for a more sophisticated detection system, that could “uniquely identify an individual based on scent,” at a geographical distance or after several hours or even days.

That’s no easy task — in 2005, one professor described human odor as “a cocktail of hundreds of molecules,” — but the Army envisions myriad civilian applications for the tech, including “identifying and tracking persons from the scenes of various crimes.”

The Army’s also launching “Human Signature Collection and Exploitation via Stand-Off Non-Cooperative Sensing,” to refine technology that can detect hostile intent based on thermal imaging — an analysis of the heat radiating off a body. And since research has shown that different faces radiate heat in unique patterns, they’re hoping to create sensors that can positively identify people, much like iris scans or fingerprinting.

The idea would be particularly useful in urban war-zones, where troops are often forced to pick threats out of a crowd, recognize dangerous groups or clue into the nefarious intent behind seemingly benign behavior. The Army’s project would allow troops to simultaneously ID potential threats and detect “aggression or hostile intent” — all at a safe distance from any insurgent armpits.