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Face-Recognition Software Fingers Suspects

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the let's-face-it dept.

184

eldavojohn writes, "In Holyoke and Northampton, Massachusetts, the police have a new member on the team. It's facial recognition software that will mine the 9.5 million state license images of Massachusetts residents. From the article: 'Police Chief Anthony R. Scott said yesterday he will take advantage of the state's offer to tap into a computer system that can identify suspects through the Registry of Motor Vehicle's Facial Recognition System.' The kicker is that this system been in use since May and has been successful." An article from Iowa a few weeks back mentions that software from the same company (Digimark) is in use to catch potential fraud in applying for driver's licenses in Alabama, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas. But offering the software and photo database as a resource to police departments raises the stakes considerably. I wonder what the false positive rate is.

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finger suspects ? (5, Funny)

Monsieur_F (531564) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901282)

$ finger suspect
finger: suspect: no such user.

$ finger suspects
finger: suspects: no such user.

Actually, it's a different kind of fingering. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901416)

This sort of device is placed on the individual's stomach. A small finger-like device protrudes, and gently strokes that person's genitals. When applied to a penis, this can lead to ejaculation.

Re:finger suspects ? (4, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901436)

You, for one, have clearly ventured into Soviet Rootkit territory: your new PCI overlord [slashdot.org] welcomes you!

Once a criminal, always a suspect? (5, Interesting)

Web Goddess (133348) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902442)

I had one criminal conviction when I was 18. It has dogged me my entire life. It is so upsetting to hear people say, oh well, as long as it's only *convicted criminals* who go into these insane database searches.

It's wrong to mass-search drivers' license pictures. It's also wrong to mass-search pictures of anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime. Many, many people have a regrettable misdeed in their past. It's wrong to continue to punish people who have, as was once said, "paid their debt to society."

Penitent and paranoid in California.

Re:Once a criminal, always a suspect? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903186)

That argument is awfully similar to GMail scanning your email.

Its a freaking computer! It doesnt give a damn about you.

Re:Once a criminal, always a suspect? (1)

skahshah (603640) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903268)

Hangman to convict : "It's a freaking cord ! It doesn't give a damn about you."

Re:Once a criminal, always a suspect? (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903490)

Wendy,

There's only one way to really put a conviction behind you in the US. That is, the Chuck Colson MethodTM (he was one of Nixon's Watergate Turds). You have to 1) Find Jesus in Prison, 2) Start a Mega-Church Ministry, and 3) start bringing souls to Republicanism.

Then, you not only get a free pass, but you get listed in Newsweek as one of the "Leaders of the Values Coalition". You see, when you're crooked in support of the GOP, they call that "Values".

Oh, I forgot. 4) Declare yourself an alcoholic and go into "treatment". This is absolutely required because then you can use the Mark Foley/Ted Haggard defense of saying "booze made me do it".

False positive rate? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901290)

I wonder what the false positive rate is.

Speaking as someone with (a) some common sense and (b) a formal CS background including image processing work, I think it's fair to say that it won't be zero.

I hope they have good procedures in place to immediately drop any proceedings against those who are misidentified, and that any automatic identification using this system is not somehow considered 100% reliable in court.

Re:False positive rate? (0)

bob65 (590395) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901324)

It's just another tool - I don't see any harm in this whatsoever, even if the false positive rate is like 30% (although that might make the tool less useful). Ultimately it's up to the police to figure out who the suspects are, and using this tool is sort of analogous to receiving a bunch of "tips" from "witnesses" that point to a group of potential suspects.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

MaXiMiUS (923393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901362)

As opposed to lies from random people on the streets?

Re:False positive rate? (3, Insightful)

bob65 (590395) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902008)

Well getting lies from random people on the streets would be analogous to getting a false positive from this system (except that the system arguably isn't out to frame anyone on purpose), and since police have no trouble dealing with such false positives from "tips", they should have even less trouble dealing with false positives from this system.

Re:False positive rate? (4, Insightful)

Duhavid (677874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902112)

I think you are assuming that the police are not having a problem
dealing with false positives from "tips". I suspect that is not
proven.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

kaufmanmoore (930593) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902152)

Police seem to be having a problem with "tips" from that stripper in the Duke Lacrosse case

Re:False positive rate? (5, Informative)

Adam Zweimiller (710977) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901372)

Yeah, but futhermore wouldn't it be safe to say that they don't just go indict someone with charges without a gumshoe comparing the photographs themselves? I mean, theres go to be some sort of human involvement. Lets say the have a CCTV image of a buglary suspect and they use this software to scan the DMV photos for a match, and the software returns 1 or more matches. They don't just throw the match(es) in jail right then. I think its a safe bet that law enforcement would use their own peepers to compare the DMV photographs with the CCTV to see if its close, and then go about questioning the match(es) for their whereabouts..etc..looking for other evidence before going ahead with prosecution. It's obvious that this system is meant to give leads rather than 100% solve cases. Sure there are going to be false positives, it's a computer look for matches. It's more than likely that it's designed to be liberal with its matches simply to give detectives a list of a dozen possible suspects rather than the entire population of a city/town etc. Regardless, I can't say I'm entirely surprised that a slashdot editor took this chance to stir the pot on something that for the most part is cool, useful, and manages to assist law enforcement without trampling our privacy.

Re:False positive rate? (5, Insightful)

trianglman (1024223) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901608)

The issue is more than just the false positive rate. The problem is that they are going through the entire DMV records. As it stands right now, most places can only go through previously arrested people for things like fingerprint and facial matches, which is something that comes with having a record. I, as a law abiding citizen on the other hand, should not be immediately thrown under suspicion just because my face is somewhat similar to a blurry CCTV image, which is what the false positive rate could cause. I have a job that requires me to be in a certain place at a certain time, thats not exactly possible if I am being held for questioning because of something someone I have never met did something on the other side of town. If I could trust our government to use new technologies judiciously and with restraint, it wouldn't be a problem, but this hasn't ever been the case and, short of some utopia suddenly appearing, probably never will.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

KKlaus (1012919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902268)

I, as a law abiding citizen on the other hand, should not be immediately thrown under suspicion just because my face is somewhat similar to a blurry CCTV image, which is what the false positive rate could cause.

That's not really a valid complaint in and of itself. The system already works with you being a suspect for looking like whoever committed the crime. That's what wanted posters are about, what "have you seen this man" questions are about, etc. It's not like criminals pose for cameras, so using imperfect pictures of them to find them will always involve false positives, even if its only humans involved. So the fact that said system is receiving some computer aid to help LEO's isn't bad in and of itself.

What would make it bad would be if it were abusive and wildly inaccurate. A "calling all cars, be on the lookout for a black male between 4'9" and 6'5", ages 18-35, weighing 100 to 350 pounds." If the system is used fairly, and police understand that people the system fingers are fairly likely to be law abiding citizens and should therefore be treated with courtesy and respect, I think it will work fine.

Re:False positive rate? (2)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902312)

If the system is used fairly, and police understand that people the system fingers are fairly likely to be law abiding citizens and should therefore be treated with courtesy and respect, I think it will work fine.

Well, there's your problem right there. Sometimes it's not about justice, it's about the police arresting someone and the DA getting a conviction for political gain, or just so that they don't look like a bunch of fools. The justice system in the US is supposed to operate on a presumption of innocence, but it doesn't always work that way in real life.

Re:False positive rate? (2)

KKlaus (1012919) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902464)

Sure I guess my point was that if the police want to throw you in jail for looking like someone who committed a crime, they don't need some database of license photos to do it. They already have that capability.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903208)

Yes, but what if you work in some area, like DC, where they only way to get to work every day is to drive past a battery of these cameras? And you're stopped, daily, because the system says so?

Which is the difference between then and now. Then, someone COULD have done it true, but statistically, the odds of it happening were slight. (Cop being there, you being there, cop noticing you and running a check, dozens of other people not being checked because cop was checking someone else, cop not munching a donut, and so on.)

Whereas a system like this checks everyone, everytime.

And if such a system throw false positives, then it WILL have an impact. Especially if the "match" is against, say, an escaped felon, "armed and presumed dangerous."

Read the Article Please... CCTV camera?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902412)

Not once in the article does it say they'll be using images recovered from a CCTV camera. For a system like this to have any semblance of accuracy you would need a photo produced under the exact conditions that the original photo was produced. Even a slight difference in lighting can completely throw off an image processing system's ability to make a match.

The system is to be used solely to identify those who are providing false identities. It is designed for finding those who are trying to get multiple licenses, a full frontal shot from the same angle with very similar lighting where they could easily crop the images to view the same portion of the face. I would imagine that it will report a numerical rating of the image to tell you how close it is and you could tell it to report matches above a certain threshold or the top matches.

From the article, "detectives could use the registry service to help identify suspects giving police false names or aliases."

Please remove the tin foil hat.

Re:False positive rate? (3, Funny)

dekkerdreyer (1007957) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902524)

"Round up twice the usual suspects!" - Louie Renault

Re:False positive rate? (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901420)

I'd hope this would be used as much to rule out suspects as to convict a specific one. And even if it were a not un-realistic .1%... I don't think facial recognition alone would do someone in. But this could certainly help, even if alone it wouldn't convict.

Re:False positive rate? (1, Insightful)

snark23 (122331) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901506)

It won't be zero, but it also can't be very high or else it wouldn't be cost effective for the police. Assuming that it takes a non-trivial amount of human time to process each positive, a high false-to-true positive ratio would be a show-stopper.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903096)

"It won't be zero, but it also can't be very high or else it wouldn't be cost effective for the police."

You're assuming they want to nail _the_ perpetrator, not _a_ suspect. Consider the number of times that US prosecutors have actually opposed conceivable exonerating DNA tests even for convicts on death row, and you might not think a high false positive rate would be a showstopper at all.

From what I've seen of facial recognition software, the error rates are horrible. Set it to sensitive and you get error rates in the percentages, set it less sensitive and you fail the matches all the time. That's ok for building entry systems where you have a small sample to compare against and the person wanting to enter can try repeatedly with varying angles and light, but it's absolutely crap when you have a large database matched against images taken under dubious conditions.

Re:False positive rate? (0)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901564)

If juries weight this kind of evidence heavily enough to convict on the basis of it alone, then the false positive rate will be zero, by definition.

Re:False positive rate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901604)

False positives generated by the computer search don't really mattter. The facial recognition software produces a list of drivers photographs with a percentage score (99% match, 95% match, 80% etc) of how close they match the metrics generated from still frames in the video footage.

Then (and this is the "well DUH" moment so listen carefully) a human being can visually check the footage and the licenced photos, and considering it's a police investigation, do the rest of the evidence gathering required to make a case against a suspect.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903706)

Blockquoth the AC:

Then (and this is the "well DUH" moment so listen carefully) a human being can visually check the footage and the licenced photos, and considering it's a police investigation, do the rest of the evidence gathering required to make a case against a suspect.

That's lovely, and as long as this sort of system is used as a way to make the human checkers' job easier and not an excuse to remove human checking from the system that's great. The problem is that systems like these often do get used to remove the human element. That does, after all, make systems more efficient and reduce costs, as long as you don't notice the people who get shafted due to false positives/negatives.

I live in the UK, where automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology, which is effectively OCR for car licence plates, is finding a lot of friends among the authorities. It is increasingly used in speed cameras that measure your average speed over a distance. It is used in supermarket car parks to check people aren't staying too long. It is used to monitor those entering the congestion charging zone in London.

The problem is that whatever checks are supposed to be there to prevent a machine screw-up becoming a false charge demonstrably don't work reliably in practice. There is a man who lives near me, quite elderly, who barely drives at all and hasn't been to London in many years. He has received not one but multiple fines for going into the London congestion charging zone without paying. (Yes, he has provided plenty of proof that he really was elsewhere at the time.) Perhaps this is down to some arsehole cloning the guy's number plate, and insufficient checks being made on the make and model of the vehicle to realise this. Perhaps it's down to poor scanning by the OCR software, which tends to read a 5 as an S from some angles, or doesn't understand some foreign plate formats. It doesn't really matter what caused it: the point is that the process has advanced from a flawed automatic diagnosis to sending formal penalty notices to an innocent old man, with insufficient checks and balances in between to spot the mistake.

Exactly the same risk exists with any automatic recognition system, including the facial recognition technology we're discussing here. Would anyone like to bet me that in a couple of years' time, the senior police officers in the area won't be on the news, proudly announcing the way they've both cut costs and reduced the number of licenses wrongly awarded thanks to a new system that immediately rejects anyone whose face matches (while quietly ignoring the increase in people wrongly rejected by the same process)?

This is where we must demand more from our authorities. Mistakes will always be made in real life, though of course we should try to minimise them, but what really counts is how fast you fix them, how easy it is for a wrongly accused party to clear their name, and how little distress is caused to them as a result.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901660)

People seem to have the wrong idea here, I highly doubt that a system like this would examine a photo and say this is your criminal, it's more likely to be used to narrow down searches from... well... everyone, to maybe giving the top 50 matches or something to work with. Sounds like a great idea to me.

Re:False positive rate? (3, Informative)

nbauman (624611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901914)

>I wonder what the false positive rate is.

It will be like the Do Not Fly list.

Years ago, Scientific American had a story about a prototype system for facial recognition created of students at Brooklyn College. They had a database of about 1,000 faces, and they showed the 2 most similar and the 2 most different. The 2 most different were very different. The 2 most similar were so similar, I couldn't tell them apart. So back-of-the-envelope, I'd say about 2 faces in 1,000 will be so similar you can't tell them apart.

(Surely on Slashdot somebody must know the current research.)

So if there are 300 million people in the U.S., and you have a common-looking face, you'll have a close match to 300,000 people. Or 8,000 people in New York City.

(In New York a popular Catholic priest was arrested, based on a victim's identification, and charged with rape. His parisioners couln't believe it. Finally the cops found another guy, and charged him with the rape. Finally, they found a *third* guy, and he seemed to be the one. The newspapers published the 3 pictures. They really looked alike. Funny thing was, they were different racial types, too. One guy was hispanic, another guy was Italian.)

Re:False positive rate? (0)

Firehed (942385) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902408)

One guy was hispanic, another guy was Italian.

Hispanic and Italian? Surely not... they were obviously both Italic.
*rimshot*

Re:False positive rate? (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903418)

Exactly, and this happened only a few weeks ago.

Innocent Girl Held A Week In North Platte Jail

Click the link - look at the photographs. This error was made by humans - the actual witness himself. Now imagine what image processing software would think.

http://nebraska.statepaper.com/vnews/display.v/ART /2006/11/02/454a32dc2d927 [statepaper.com]

Re:False positive rate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901974)

> I think it's fair to say that it won't be zero.

I think it's fair to say it will be huge! I worked on a project with the state of SC to use fingerprint matching for a purpose like this. The problem is the birthday paradox. You can't use this sort of thing to match random people. You can match a given fingerprint(or face) to a a single given suspect with great accuracy, but when you start matching everyone versus a large pool then you can easily have a false positive for every single attempt. We found the software from Neurotechnologija was the best and optical scanners from Biometrika gave the best scans, but even with those top of the line components when matching a random person against our pool of 10,000 fingerprints most people would match at least one criminal. The false positive rate is much, much higher than even a cynical person would expect because of the birthday paradox is counter-intuitive.z

Re:False positive rate? (1)

Brandybuck (704397) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902260)

It's funny how people are crying over this invasion of their rights. Fine. The police are horrible people. I'll accept that for the sake of the discussion.

But consider the opposite side of the equation... if you are able. What if the system was only 50% sucessful? Isn't that at least a high enough success rate to send out a cop to personally ID the guy? What's the difference between this system, and some old lady down the street calling in to the cops saying she recognized the guy from the photo in the post office?

Or do we just cease trying to catch criminals, just because we might make a mistake in identification and cause someone an afternoon of grief? Do we really need to jump of the far left deep end in order to be good people?

Re:False positive rate? (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903224)

"Isn't that at least a high enough success rate to send out a cop to personally ID the guy?"

If the "match" is against, say, an escaped felon, "armed and presumed dangerous," I strongly suspect the cops are going to do just a bit more than saunter up and ask for your id...

Re:False positive rate? (1)

mdfst13 (664665) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902514)

"any automatic identification using this system is not somehow considered 100% reliable in court."

They already have systems like this for fingerprints: local police send fingerprints to the FBI; the FBI puts them in computer; computer spits out a possible match or matches; a real person then looks at the submitted fingerprint and the stored fingerprint and makes a decision. If it goes to court, a real person who is locally available will testify as to the match (well first, you can see both have a tented arch here...).

It's also worth noting that this is probably aimed more at finding suspects than at convictions. I.e. a match starts an investigation. If you're already investigating someone, you don't need to compare security photos to their license photo--you can just compare to the actual person. I would be very surprised to see the results of this used in court.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903198)

Police dont walk around blindfolded. I'm sure they make their own decision.
This would just help them narrow down the possibilities.

Re:False positive rate? (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903634)

Simple fact dooming this program: Who looks like their licence photo?

Interesting... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901306)

Face-Recognition Software Fingers Suspects
I bet desperate Slashdotters will be all over this...

Ewwwww! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901320)

This might be software that is a lot more popular with the ladies than the gents!

Re:Ewwwww! (2, Funny)

couchslug (175151) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901402)

Depend on the gents, thweetie!

Well... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901330)

Did the software at least buy them dinner first?

Abuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901336)

No facial recognition exists that succeeds at anything besides an occasional match. The number of false positives is truly astonishing. This needs to be seriously tempered by careful review of any match spit out. Otherwise, the abuse potential is astronomical. How would you like going down to the station because the software makes a false match?

Oh yeah? (5, Funny)

slughead (592713) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901346)

Face-Recognition Software Fingers Suspects

And what does it do if they're male?

Fists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901388)

Obviously.

Re:Oh yeah? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901424)

The male suspects take it in the ass (and like it).

Re:Oh yeah? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901540)

Women don't just have one hole down there, they have two. Men have one of those holes, too. And that is enough for fingering, although I doubt the sensation is very good without lubrication. Oh, and as Mrs. Foreman would say, trim those nails.

Re:Oh yeah? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901758)

That is sick as hell dude. You always worry when the guy going in for a prostate exam actually looks forward to it.

Re:Oh yeah? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902050)

Women don't just have one hole down there, they have two.

Weird - the womenfolk I know, say they have three holes - one for pleasure, one for poo, and one for pee ...

Re:Oh yeah? (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902140)

And what does it do if they're male?

It fingers them.

Re:Oh yeah? (1)

Plutonite (999141) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902880)

Yes, and I hope we all agree that the word "face" and the phrase "fingers suspects" are uncomfortable in the same sentence.

Wonderful (1)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901386)

As a license-holding Massachusetts resident who lives right near Holyoke and Northampton (Amherst) it's nice to know I can look forward to being a criminal suspect in the near future.

internet renewal is your friend (1)

bxbaser (252102) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901698)

Your picture stays the same.
That coupled with the ravages of solar radiation upon your facial skin after a few years you will never be recoginzed.
You will be unstopable.

Re:Wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902196)

Eh, up there you're all (ugly) lesbians, filthy hippies or both anyway so who gives a crap?

You keep voting for powerful governments in MA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16903696)

Vote in a government that openly wants a lot of power, and this is what you get. Oh, but it's necessary for government to have that power to raise taxes, set rules. Because that government is needed to do some good. :-P

Yeah, right.

You got the government you deserve.

Remember that next time you vote for a candidate - at least pick the one who wants to lower your taxes. Because without money, your government can't pay for things like mining driver's license photos, or the NSA listening to your phone calls.

"I wonder what the false positive rate is?" (0, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901414)

Fucking high thats all i can say. and i bet when it does happen, the burecrates won't believe that your who you say you are, and take away your liberty.

Re:"I wonder what the false positive rate is?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901648)

And if there were no such things as criminals, we wouldn't have to resort to such technology to begin with?

Boy - which way ya want it.

False positives before, too (5, Interesting)

Wylfing (144940) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901426)

I fear "automatic" matching of criminals and trying to catch them, e.g., when they renew their license. Here is a true false-positive story that happened to me. I went to renew my driver's license, and the nice lady informed me that she could not issue me a license because I had had mine revoked in Maryland due to felony charges. Now, I have never committed a felony and I have never been to Maryland, let alone had a driver's license there. The nice lady was unpersuaded by this information. The database said I was a felon in Maryland, and that was the end of the story.

After much yelling about the problem, it was finally revealed that the real felon's name was exactly like mine except for one letter, and some moron doing data entry had gone ahead and decided we were the same person, based solely on name. Since this data problem was local to the "matching" system they had implemented, and not prevalent in who-knows-how-many databases, it was cleared up with a little investigation. However, if that "match" had been replicated into other systems, I could very well have had a nasty time clearing my name. The lady at the DMV was 100% convinced that I was a felon based on what the computer told her. Quite likely, no one else would have believed I was innocent either.

I can see this system playing havoc with people too. I have met people with no connection to each other but who nevertheless look virtually identical.

Re:False positives before, too (4, Informative)

whm (67844) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901580)

I can see this system playing havoc with people too. I have met people with no connection to each other but who nevertheless look virtually identical.

This article is a great example of what you've described,

http://nebraska.statepaper.com/pages/drudged/innoc ent.html [statepaper.com]

In summary: There are two girls that look nearly identical. One of them committed a crime, and the other was put in jail for a week. There are photos in the article.

Re:False positives before, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902282)

I remember that case! The jerk-off cops didn't care that they had the wrong person. They still kept her illegally and lied to a judge to keep her in jail even longer. They also lied to the media about her. Not a single one of the thugs that hurt her was fired. None of the cops ever officially apologized for their wrongdoing. There is no accountability in the US any longer for law enforcement. A relative of mine that works for Crimestoppers went to bat for the poor girl. Just hope you're never picked at random to be hurt by a cop like that poor girl was.

Re:False positives before, too (1)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901582)

Maybe it will be for the best if this story becomes the norm. If it just happens in a few rare cases people (and politicians) will ignore the problem. If it happens a lot the system will be abandoned.

Re:False positives before, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901632)

Wow... I knew things had gotten bad, but when did states start linking their no-recourse-for-correcting-false information databases?? And when did having a felony conviction in one's past having any effect on whether one can get a driver's license or not?

Re:False positives before, too (1)

kaufmanmoore (930593) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901752)

Having a DUI can affect you getting a license and in NC people who don't pay child support can have them revoked.

Re:False positives before, too (1)

CodeMasterPhilzar (978639) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901706)

I didn't see any mention in the article that a match from the computer system would be admissible in court. It is just a tool for narrowing the suspect list down from "everyone but me" to maybe this one or more people from the database, to maybe someone not in the database...

Re:False positives before, too (0, Troll)

bxbaser (252102) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901718)

"Now, I have never committed a felony and I have never been to Maryland, let alone had a driver's license there"

Yup thats what they all say

Re:False positives before, too (1)

Skidge (316075) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902288)

I had a similar problem renewing my license in NY state. I have a fairly common name and someone with an identical name, down to the middle initial, and I believe even the same birthday had some charges for running a red light and fleeing the scene of an accident in NY City and some violations in Florida, as well. Problem was, I was living as far from NYC as you can get in the state and had only been to NYC when I was 5 years old. Not to mention that I was only 18 and had rarely driven outside of my county. Luckily, my mother knew someone at the DMV and through many phone calls and faxes, it was cleared up.

While my inconvenience was minor, it's scary to think was trouble someone could land in due to data quality issues.

Re:False positives before, too (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902530)

After much yelling about the problem, it was finally revealed that the real felon's name was exactly like mine except for one letter

Is your name Tuttle [wikipedia.org] , by chance?

Re:False positives before, too (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903348)

Aren't you glad that the DMV lady raised the concern instead of when you got pulled over by a cop? You should be glad this is what happened.

Good old SQL... (4, Funny)

eyeball (17206) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901448)

Part of the SQL better include something like "... WHERE OCCUPATION IS NOT 'politician' " otherwise there's be total anarchy.

Re:Good old SQL... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901518)

From what I've seen of automatic security these days, it will be more like guilty=(match picture) or (Democrat) or (Not Republican) You have heard about the politicians getting on the no fly list... right? Actually, I get the feeling that those cases were A)honest mistakes or B)someone with access to the database trying to give the system a bad rap. Someone actually abusing the system in order to harass members of an opposing party seems like it would be easily tracked back to the offending party. Why Democrats getting stopped? Because they would be more likely to want to fight the no fly lists and other anti-terrorist measures.

faustian bargain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901466)

Not necessarily this (though it smells bad), but increasingly one wonders if the handing over of freedoms (again not necesssarily what happened here) is a faustian bargain. Just cause one finds oneself a short ter, happy pill doesnt mean it's going to work long term.

Overtrust of technology .. who knows where it can lead. I all for better efficiency in catching malicious people, but there is something to be said for innefficiency, you never know when they come in handy (example escaping WWII germany).

be careful.. (0)

eiddam (669180) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901472)

Facial recognition will only get better and better as time goes on. Think about what this means. If everywhere you go these days you have a good chance of being "caught" on camera, what will this mean for our already compromised privacy in a future where facial recognition systems are near flawless?

Re:be careful.. (2, Insightful)

smaddox (928261) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901572)

I don't see how facial recognition systems can ever be "near flawless". Most systems I know of use neural networks to match patterns. Neural networks model the brain, and even humans can't always tell apart two people if you only have a picture of their face. Humans use a lot more than a face to determine who a person is.

Re:be careful.. (2)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902366)

Humans use a lot more than a face to determine who a person is

Big time. I and lots of other people can often identify someone without seeing them just from hearing them walk. Video would be a big step forward, as people tend to be very distinctive in their movements, but I doubt there will ever be a computer than can people-watch as well as people themselves can.

Re:be careful.. (1)

jonathan_the_ninja (704301) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901610)

Let's just hope they're more foolproof than ScumSoft's system in Space Quest 3...good memories.

Re:be careful.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902920)

Like several other posters, I doubt facial recognition will ever be all that reliable. Remember a while back, when there was debate about putting peoples faces on credit cards? Never happened. In field tests at stores people were frequently unable to match faces to file photos, so that never got off the ground. (Ya. That story's going around again, though I can't remember if I got there via slashdot, cryptome or one of the security pages.)

Think Christian Bale, before fasting for "The Machinist" and after; throw in beards, mustaches, makeup effects, wigs ... Not ever gonna be accurate enough to rely upon.

But, let's say it does mature to near 100% accuracy -- and what's a couple of decimal point in a population of 360 million? Would that include discerning/differentiating the results of home workshop power tool accidents, botched DIY facial surgery, and herpes acquired during the only blind date of the last decade?

For now and the foreseeable future, this is technology best kept in the lab with a photobook composed of people somehow connected to the White House and Congress forming the test cases.

fingers suspects (1)

Placebo Messiah (895157) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901496)

sounds like a Realdoll(TM) upgrade

but no stats (4, Interesting)

troll -1 (956834) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901510)

Sounds promising for law agencies but given that no caught suspects have been named and that criticism persists that face recognition technology is inherently unreliable, I wonder how much of this is just (sales) hype. I mean, come on, give us some real data where you can say it's effective because ... here are the names of the criminals we caught and it can all be credited to the system.

Re:but no stats (3, Insightful)

colmore (56499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901654)

There's a fundamental, mathematical problem for any system that screens large populations looking for a small number of targets.

Let's say your system is 99% reliable, that is to say, 1% of the time it checks a negative it reports a positive and vice versa.

Now you screen 1,000,000 people looking for one suspect, your system turns up 10,001 positives. Which one is it?

This is a problem that has been well-studied in cancer screenings. For certain rare types of cancers, there are nearly 100% reliable tests that nonetheless when they report a positive, are usually wrong.

Now it's fine to say, in the case of the cancer, that the 1% of the population should be informed and then checked via another procedure or something. But when we're talking about a process that fingers potential criminals, and in modern criminal justice where merely being a suspect hurts your life in a myriad of ways (god help you if the information winds up somewhere accessible to google, or worse yet, the case has anything to do with terrorism).

I have the same objection to large-scale wiretapping operations, if anything, the human factor there greatly increases the problem.

Jack-booted thugs (1)

dlaur (135032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901606)

The next time someone tells me that the slippery slope is an invalid argument, I'm going to slap them.

Next stop... (1)

GreatWurm (200374) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901664)

Coming soon to Toll Booths and ATMs, little brother.

Re:Next stop... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901688)

the booth with slam shut on you, and armed guards shall come and escort you to a holding cell pending questing. all the while telling you it's for your own good.

A Note to Massie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901680)

Just declare anyone appling for a drivers license as "person non grata."

That way, you "Massie," declare that that such persons are not citizens of
the U.S., least of all which "Massie."

With the hords of "non-citizens, " Massie could institute new Nazi, er "Social"
programs which need people, like "organ donation."

Before long, the state budget deficit would be gone, and the cocaine deits of the
Massie legislature would be gone like a Blackie in Southie.

Toodellies

I, for one, welcome our new CSI overlords! (5, Funny)

`Sean (15328) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901694)

Finally! Inept police departments will be able to solve murders and other heinous crimes using awesome computer graphics in 47 minutes or less...just like on TV!

Enhance...enhance...enhance...

Suddenly... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901750)

A whole lot of moustaches and beards become the new fasion...

Now a "Person of Interest"? (1)

enormouse (737333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901766)

Two potential issues with automated matching, not just facial recognition are: ending up in files as a 'person of interest', 'subject of investigation' or whatever you want to call it, simply because you were in a potential match. This doesn't look good in deep background checks. And, what would be more troublesome, is spending time defending yourself in a preliminary investigation if authorities begin to rely too heavily on fuzzy matches, unless you track your every move.

Re:Now a "Person of Interest"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901828)

What, you mean like "sup1d whyt3 m3n?", oh yeah, that's persons of "non-interest" aint it?

Oh goodies (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16901868)

Great, yet another unpleasant use of interdepartmental government cooperation. One completely unrelated activity (in this case, driving) being used to gather data for another activity (criminal apprehension). I don't know about everyone else, but when I went to get my License I didn't think "oh swell, this information will be culled through every time the police are looking for someone, criminal or not". Perhaps it is my incessant paranoia, but I don't like the Idea of my name/information being put in a database and constantly culled through looking for criminals unless I've been convicted of actually doing something wrong. As far as I am concerned it treats me as a suspect every time, even though I'm probably not within hundreds of miles of the crime, I don't care whether or not a computer is doing it, I'm still being treated as a potential criminal every time. I would not have so much of a problem with the information from convicted criminal mug shots being gone through (though I suppose even in that case there are some issues, but much less prevalent (those people have been "convicted" of crimes)), but innocent, never convicted or suspected citizens, sounds like things are getting scary to me.

As for the level of trust that can be placed in this system......, I would place it as low at best. The inaccuracies of currently understood facial recognition software aside. The fact that swat teams routinely smash into the wrong persons home, because of a misspelled address or faulty descriptions should clue into that this system would probably trouble a lot of innocent people. I have little doubt that there would be many false positives involving people who looked relatively similar to a criminal who made it all the way up to the "arrest" phase of being a suspect before the police finally discovered it was a mistake. And in a environment where, at least as far as police mistakes/abuse are concerned, treated with a light slap on the wrist, paid leave of absence, or a reprimand on their file are about all the punishment that can be expected, I don't think they need a tool as inaccurate and dangerous as this. If they can eventually learn to use their current tools better (like putting heavy/warranted restrictions on access to DMV info, Phone Records, and Credit Card info) and punish/repair mistakes appropriately. Then maybe they should be allowed equally restricted access to a tool as dangerous as this with the affore mentioned criminal mug shots restriction, but not until. //end of rant

Re:Oh goodies (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902098)

I have a short barreled semi-automatic 12 gauge shotgun and other weapons loaded and ready to kill anyone (police or not) who tries to force their way into my home without showing a warrant first. I realize I would die in the process if it were a cop or SWAT team executing a so called "no-knock warrant", but some things are worth dying for, and the sanctity of my own home is one of them.

Re:Oh goodies (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16903410)

Eric - now calm down, you've forgotten to take your meds again, haven't you?

WTF!?~ (4, Insightful)

sc0p3 (972992) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901924)

This is exactly like finger printing everyone in the state. Privacy has gone out the window. Making use of photos which people allowed for use on their license, to be used to finger them is criminal.

That is him officer! (1)

TavisJohn (961472) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901940)

That's the one that programmed me for evil!!!!!!

license photograph archive (4, Insightful)

JimBobJoe (2758) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901960)

You'd be surprised how many state legislatures never bothered authorizing their respective DMVs to archive the photographs (which is a huge change from the days of the original photo licenses, where only negative was produced and no photograph maintained.)

I just took a look at the MA code [mass.gov] and couldn't find anything allowing the photographs to be archived by the registry of motor vehicles. Maybe someone else with a better knoweledge of MA law can find such a law.

This is not an insignificant issue...the archival of the photographs and sharing them to law enforcement, basically without limit and without warrant to access the database, is the practical equivalent of requiring every citizen above the age of 16 to show up at the local police station and be photographed.

I consider the photograph archival of US license pictures to be one of the biggest and least known/understood privacy invasions in the last 10-15 years.

Re:license photograph archive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902172)

You can pretty much assume that they maintain a database. Where else would your photo come from for a "renew by mail"? Or if you loose your license? You don't have to go to the dmv office in most states to get a new photo taken, you just get a new license in via mail.

Related to a story on /. yesterday (1)

isotope23 (210590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16901986)

http://politics.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/ 17/1630255 [slashdot.org] ' 'But rather than work out these dilemmas in partnership with their elected leaders, they were encouraged to regard all politicians as corrupt or mendacious by the media, which he described as "a conspiracy to maintain the population in a perpetual state of self-righteous rage." Whether media was left wing or right wing, the message was always that 'leaders are out there to shaft you.'"

Obviously they are. A License to drive has just been turned into a permanent mug shot.

Heh (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902138)

"Face-Recognition Software Fingers Suspects"

Oh, that's just great. First face-regonition violates our privacy, and now it's violating our orifices!

The amount of comments here, endorsing ... (2, Insightful)

quax (19371) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902390)

... such a system is truely scary. What's next? How about 24/7 machine assisted surveilance of all telepone calls just because it may help catch a terrorist? Oh, wait a sec =:-0

Twins (5, Interesting)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16902622)

How does it handle identical twins?

Turning the law upside down.. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16902782)

I'm intrigued that there's so little objection to the gradual reversal of the first principle of law: innocent until proven guilty. In this case it starts on the wholly false premise that the images used on driver licenses are of a sufficient quality to make a proper match without a high false positives rate (you can find the EU specs for biometric passports here [europa.eu] - I know that it has turned making a passport picture into something like an art form, and out of reach of your average 'picture me' box). Result: based on very bad source data you now have to prove your innocence if you somehow resemble a criminal. Nobody has heard of such facilities to be 'tools' (i.e. ASSISTING in the decision process, not actually replacing it). Groan..

Other examples of having to prove your innocence are any broad RIAA 'john doe' suit, being labelled a terrorist (in some cases you can't even prove your innocence there because you're quickly shipped outside the internationally agreed legal framework at Guantanamo Bay), Microsofts' WGA, oh, and forgetting your college card which apparently is good enough to allow police officers to submit you to unwarranted violence which in other nations would lead to such officers facing jail. On that topic, I vaguely recall that the other argument for Iraq was the police brutality the citizens were subjected to. Well, it appears a few lessons were learned there - just not the right ones..

Let me ask you something: does Washington actually have any politicians left with a spine or have they all been bought? Does anyone actually CARE about human rights there other than to harass other nations with and as a pretext to start the odd war when it's politically convenient?

The US is not 'on' the slippery slope - it's damn well sliding fast if citizens don't start making Washingtom behave like most citizens want (I'm making the distinction here because most Americans I know don't seem to agree with what's happening in Washington - proven by the latest election results). It'll be interesting to see if that 'bloody nose' Bush received in the elections will make a difference.

Given the amount of money involved, I somehow don't think so.

/rant..

Masks (1)

breakitdown (816727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903292)

That's why I always wear a mask when I commit my crimes.

Too many? (1)

AgentFade2Black (968245) | more than 7 years ago | (#16903548)

It will mine the 9.5 million state licenses (snip)
Wait a minute...aren't there only 6.3 million residents or so in Massachusetts?
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