Law Enforcement Turns to Face-Recognition Technology

By McAllister, Darryl | Information Today, May 2007 | Go to article overview

Law Enforcement Turns to Face-Recognition Technology


McAllister, Darryl, Information Today


When the 1950s television hit Candid Camera took America by storm, the outlandish situations captivated viewers in living rooms all over the U.S. A hidden camera captured the victim's reactions, and at some point, the prank was revealed with the signature phrase, "Smile, you're on Candid Camera!"

In the entertainment world, capturing someone's face on camera has continued to evolve. The intrigue is less about the situational story line and more about technological prowess. From Mission: Impossible and Enemy of the State to television shows such as CSI, 24, and Las Vegas, Hollywood generates story lines that often feature face-recognition technologies. The reality is that face-recognition technology--a form of biometrics--is a rapidly growing tool for real-world issues including public safety and security.

Biometrics and Face Recognition

The term "biometric" is a combination of "biology" and "measurement," one of several technologies used to identify individuals by the body's physical characteristics, along with fingerprint readers, iris scanners, voice analyzers, and computer-linked cameras that recognize the way people walk. Law enforcement has been learning how to use face recognition and other biometrics for public safety and information security. This controversial technology also raises ethical questions and concerns about law enforcement's use of face recognition in criminal investigations as well as covert operations.

How It Works

A face-recognition biometrics system analyzes the characteristics of a person's face, which is usually captured by a digital video camera. The overall facial structure is measured, including the distance between the eyes, nose, mouth, and jaw edges. These measurements are saved in a database and used for later comparison, if needed.

Face-recognition technology can also be used for surveillance purposes. Unlike iris scans, hand geometry, fingerprint recognition, or voice recognition, face recognition does not require close proximity to the donor for identification. So, face-recognition technology can be used without the subject ever knowing he or she is the focus of such a scan, which opens the door particularly in intelligence and covert operations.

The distinctions for using face-recognition technology are subtle yet compelling. Law enforcement must decide whether it will use the technology for verification versus identification. Verification implies face-recognition biometrics that will be used to answer the question, "Is this that person?" Identification, on the other hand, implies that the technology will be used to answer the question, "Who is this?" by reading a facial sample and comparing that sample against a database.

Historical Perspective

Face-recognition biometrics actually dates from the late 19th century's Bertillon measurement system. In the 1880s, Parisian anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon pioneered the system based on a belief that a person's bone structure remains unchanged after age 20. Bertillon focused much of his work on the shape and breadth of the head and face. Suspected criminals were relegated to physical exams that included having their heads and bodies measured, recorded, and manually compared to Bertillon's elaborate cataloging system.

The manual record filing and checking system was quite fast for its time. Bertillon's system spread worldwide for nearly 2 decades until the system was derailed by inconsistent measurements of the same people, resulting in misidentifications and the jailing of the innocent. The Bertillon system was summarily discredited and abandoned in favor of fingerprinting.

Then, computer-vision technology was born in the late 1950s, using rudimentary programming to detect images. Through the 1960s and 1970s, experts increasingly experimented with new ways to enhance the computer's ability to distinguish one image from another, eventually spawning the growth of face-recognition biometrics. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Law Enforcement Turns to Face-Recognition Technology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.