FBI is on track to book faces, scars, tattoos in 2014

Esteban Felix/AP file photo

Questions linger about the accurate identification of criminals.

The FBI is 60 percent finished with a $1 billion update of its fingerprint database to allow for identifying suspects from their irises, faces and skin characteristics such as scars, according to the bureau. Meanwhile, skeptics and academic studies say determined terrorists can elude even a multimedia biometric database.

In a pilot program, the FBI earlier this year began matching the 12.8 million mug shots in its expanding database with crime photos submitted by Michigan police, as first reported by Nextgov. During a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday, bureau officials gave assurances that facial recognition alone is not being used to finger suspects.

“Information derived from the pilot search requests and resulting responses are to be used only as an investigative lead,” said Jerome Pender, deputy assistant director of the FBI criminal justice information services division. “Results are not to be considered as positive identifications.”

The bureau’s technology works by querying the database for mug shots resembling a face that local authorities have uploaded for “law enforcement purposes,” as defined by rules. The officers first choose how many similar shots they would like to see. The machine then returns a list of possible matches plus corresponding rap sheet numbers, ranked in order of similarity -- “along with a caveat that the response should only be used as an investigative lead,” Pender said.

The police department requesting the information is then responsible for conducting a full investigation of potential matches, according to the bureau.

“You can’t change your fingerprint and you can’t change your face, unless I guess you go to a great deal of trouble,” said Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

That’s not necessarily true, opponents say.

During interviews, critics of photo facial recognition said the FBI’s system, as currently designed, will be no match for deceptive crooks, who, for instance, wear special contact lenses or undergo cosmetic surgery. Other imaging tools, such as special infrared cameras, may be better for booking criminals if the police want an accurate, permanent identification record, they said.

Infrared facial recognition technology works similarly to the military’s night-vision gear, but instead of mapping body heat it senses thermal blood vessels in the face. Skin directly on top of blood vessels is warmer than the surrounding skin, enabling the camera to “visualize,” or map, the face’s unique vascular pattern.

The price of a camera capable of capturing thermal identities has plummeted from $80,000 to about $5,000 during the past decade, said Stanley E. Derr, president of SED Technology LLC, an infrared imaging research and development firm. The business is working on a recognition system that would cost a county sheriff’s office between $25,000 and $50,000, he said.

The infrared facial recognition technology is considered very reliable because factors such as environmental conditions or a subject’s clogged arteries or spider vein removal won’t change that pattern, Derr said. Cosmetic surgery or scarring, “may shrink your blood vessels, but it does not do away with them,” he said. “To really change the major blood vessels in your face you have to go deep enough that you have a real chance of killing the person.”

Under the FBI’s present plan for the biometric upgrade, called the Next-Generation Identification program, the face search function is expected to be fully operational by summer 2014, along with tools for matching scars, marks and tattoos.

On Tuesday, Nextgov reported that the FBI is seeking advice from municipalities and vendors on technology that can spot offenders by interpreting the symbolism of their tattoos.

By fall 2013, the system is slated to try out searching digital scans of irises, the colored portion of the eyes, according to the FBI. Currently, the bureau is building a database of eye patterns partly from scans submitted by jails that use iris recognition to monitor prisoners’ comings and goings, Nextgov learned in June.

Iris scans, with or without contact lenses, may be misleading, according to new research. Scientists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that digital iris files morph with age.

Still, the bureau seems confident with the existing technology. “The NGI program, which is on scope, on schedule and on cost and is 60 percent deployed, is enabling the FBI to meet its criminal justice mission,” Pender said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.