The Homeland Security department is exploring possibly privacy-invading technology aimed at finding terrorists and criminals by using digital surveillance photos that analyze facial characteristics, says USA Today. The U.S. government is paying for advanced research into face-recognition technology, which converts photos into numerical sequences that can be instantly compared with millions of photos in a database. Research could help police identify someone photographed by a security camera, said Homeland Security’s David Boyd.
Melissa Ngo of the Electronic Privacy Information Center says the technology could enable security cameras to find out the names of people being observed. “Why are you being tracked if you’re not doing anything wrong?” she said. Face-recognition cameras have helped casinos spot known card counters and other unwelcome gamblers. Nineteen states use the technology to compare driver’s-license applicants with a photo database of license holders to see whether an applicant already has a license or is using a false identity. Tampa and Virginia Beach police removed face-recognition systems that did not yield any arrests. In a 2002 Boston airport test, the system failed 39 percent of the time to identify volunteers posing as terrorists at security checkpoints.