In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, news outlets reported that facial recognition systems were not of much help in identifying the suspects from surveillance footage.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks facial recognition has been both touted as a magic bullet for spotting terrorists in a crowd and derided as an invasion of privacy. In truth, the technologies true application lays somewhere in the middle.
In the past 12-years facial recognition’s accuracy has vastly improved but it still has trouble with poor quality images, such as those gathered from surveillance footage. But in controlled conditions the technology can be accurate.
“Facial recognition is a powerful tool in the right circumstances and it continues to advance in its ability to support law enforcement investigations,” said Bob Eckel, CEO of MorphoTrust.
MorphoTrust released a graphic that depicts the best uses of facial recognition. The company’s biometric technology is used by the U.S. Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Transportation Security Administration, as well as by state motor vehicle agencies and local law enforcement agencies.
Many state driver license issuer’s use facial recognition technology to spot individual’s applying for multiple licenses under different names.
Other successful deployments include:
- In February, authorities in New Jersey arrested 38 people in Operation Facial Scrub, including five sex offenders and 29 people who, despite having suspended licenses, obtained fraudulent licenses, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission. Of these, some had multiple DUI offenses, and even used their false identities to obtain commercial driver licenses to drive trucks or buses.
- In March, the State of New York announced it had investigated 13,000 possible cases of identity fraud in the three years since facial recognition technology was implemented by the Department of Motor Vehicles, resulting in more than 2,500 arrests.
- The State of South Carolina has used facial recognition technology to help local law enforcement agencies identify and arrest suspects in cases involving shootings, murder, prison gang smuggling and more, according to the South Carolina Information and Intelligence Center Success Stories.
- Pinellas County, Florida, has solved hundreds of cases involving bank robbery, armed robbery and fraudulent identification, among others, by running suspect photos through facial recognition software, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.