Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Police Facial Recognition: There's an App for That"

"US cops are employing Apple's iPhone to help identify potential criminals.

The system, known as MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System), lets police officers take a snap of a suspect and upload it to a secure network to be analysed.

If a biometric match is found, the identity, photo and background information of any suspect is transmitted back to the police officer's iPhone reports the Daily Mail newspaper.

Currently being tested by the gang unit at Brockton police in Massachusetts, the iPhone app is expected to be rolled out across 28 police departments and 14 sheriff departments in the state."

PC World - Police Facial Recognition: There's an App for That

"With the snap of an iPhone camera, one police department is identifying suspects on the go.

Using an app called MORIS (Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System), the police department in Brockton, Massachusetts is matching photos of suspects with a database in development by statewide sheriff’s departments.

Sean Mullin, president and CEO of BI2 Technologies of Plymouth who developed the app, explained that the app allows officers to identify suspects through facial recognition, iris biometrics and fingerprints – all on one device.

MORIS may be a quick, easy way to ID perps, but it isn’t cheap. Each iPhone loaded up with the app costs $3,000. These aren’t regular, off-the-shelf iPhones but augmented devices (considerably bulkier than what you’d find in a store and what could easily fit in a pocket) with super-sized batteries as well as some extra hardware.

During the testing phase, police have access to the facial recognition software but the system will later include both iris and fingerprint recognition. Brockton is using a federal grant to pay for the experimental program.

The first devices will be used by the gang unit until more grant money can be obtained to equip the rest of the force. In total, about $150,000 in grant money will be used in 28 police departments and 14 sheriffs departments across the state.

Police Chief William Conlan explained the advantages in a video interview,”This is something that the officers can actually access when they’re out on the road, so they don’t have to bring somebody back here to figure out who they are.”"

Cult of Mac - Police use Facial Recognition iPhone App to ID Perps

"New tests conducted by police yet again prove an increasing number of surveillance systems are unreliable.

200 people were enrolled to test CCTV face recognition software on three systems which failed to recognise 8 out of 10 people, even when the system was fed images of people standing still – one of the easiest settings often used to suggest the software is reliable.

The tests were conducted on software produced by Cognitec, Bosch and Cross Match.

The federal police in Germany who conducted the test are citing “bad lighting” as the reason for the failure..."

"Through the use of number plate recognition, cars fitted with mandatory RFID, schools fingerprinting, biometric passports, a European biometric database and ‘Spy Drones’ monitoring street activity, we see not only Big Brother nations emerging but the creation of an entire European Big Brother continent were all movements can be tracked and recorded."

RINF Alternative News - [German] Police Report: Face Recognition CCTV Unreliable


I'm torn on this one. I am hip to giving police the ability to check against a database from the scene or from the street. Especially in the uses described in the article - a gang task force. The positive that I do see is police will have less likelihood to haul someone down to the police station in a case of mistaken identity. Especially if dealing with racial differences - the stereotyped "all black people look alike" kind of moment (which applies to characteristic recognition across other racial groups).

(I recall when the movie Colors came out in 1988 and there was some discussion in the media of the role police played in non-white communities. The words used were "white occupational army". This was about the time that police forces all over North America were beginning to look at diversity issues in their ranks)

Where I live we have a large First Nations population. I know a few Indian folks who got hauled in for "further checking" because they had a resemblance to someone the police were looking for. Hopefully an app like this one will help prevent such events from occurring in the future.

On the other hand...

I have some concern about widespread use of this kind of technology on other photo databases. It won't be long before security agencies are using this to comb facebook (if they aren't already) and the web for people they are looking for. I am uncomfortable with the kind of "associative" databases that could be created from that kind of picture crawling.

I have friends who fled Chile and other central and South American countries during the various dictatorships. They told me there were many arrests and interrogations by association. Even just the neighbours of such dangerous people as trade union or human rights activists.

Which means if a coup or authoritarian regime arrives here we will all be among the first to be arrested, tortured and shot (or thrown into the ocean from helicopters). I'm not predicting anything, but hey - what happens if President Palin doesn't like a spanking new NDP/Green coalition government...

And if you don't think bad things can happen here, look at my last post on facial recognition and the G20. Think about the arrests and harassment of Quebec separatists and nationalists during the FLQ crisis. Look at the number of people detained and tortured by the United States during their current conflicts - the number that were detained with no real grounds.

Try this on for size:

"A week after the Justice Department released documents that described in extraordinary detail the CIA's top secret rendition program, an international human rights tribunal has agreed to take up the case of a German citizen who was "rendered" to a CIA black site prison in Afghanistan and tortured in a case of mistaken identity.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition in April with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, a truck driver, detained for four months. El-Masri was first detained in December 2003 in Macedonia by law enforcement authorities of that country for 23 days before being turned over to the CIA.

El-Masri was beaten, stripped and drugged prior to being loaded onto a plane bound for Afghanistan, according to the petition. After several interrogation sessions at the black site prison, the CIA realized they had captured the wrong person. In May 2004, the CIA blindfolded El-Masri, put him on a plane and abandoned him on a hillside in Albania. He was never charged with a crime."

Antimedius - International Tribunal Takes Up Rendition, Torture Case

'nuff said on that subject


On to another topic, related to facial recognition. How long before we have "body recognition"? And what will happen when people start using a combination of body recognition and facial recognition on all those amateur porn sites where people upload their own pictures? Think Manitoba judges and such for the awesome results of being outed in relation to amateur porn and jilted ex's tossing nudie pics on the internet.

It's a brave new world...


Picture credit: Cult of Mac - Police use Facial Recognition iPhone App to ID Perps


  1. In addition to facial recognition apps, the iPhone contains a number of features that help detectives in retrieving information about criminal activities and criminals themselves. I stumbled across this article a couple of months ago.

  2. cool

    i surmised that there would be plenty of stuff on phones that people wouldn't know about (i've been involved in forensics efforts on computers [and leak tracking from word document revision histories])

    thanks for the article link

    you have inspired a post. i will be delving into the topic discussed in the article you provided after doing a little more research.

  3. You should check out COPLINK 4.0, it too has facial recognition capability. COPLINK in general is right up your alley.

  4. It's an excellent post I got some new information from this post.
    Face Recognition Software