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Facial recognition tech used on drivers

By: staff

Date: Thursday, 15. October 2009

In an experimental project in North Carolina, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has already caught one double homicide suspect using facial recognition technology.

Learning that California suspect Rodolfo Corrales had moved to North Carolina, the FBI scanned a 1991 booking photo and then used the recognition software to compare it with a database of 30 million license photos stored by the NC DMV.

It took only seconds to narrow the field of suspects to less than 50 who resembled Corrales. After reviewing these images, the FBI focused on a man who called himself Jose Solis. It took only a week or so to corroborate other information and make an arrest.

Facial recognition technology is not new. In fact it is now available to millions of home computer users. However, its use in this manner is new, at least in the U.S., and the North Carolina project is, naturally, stimulating keen interest amongst privacy protection groups.

Christopher Calabrese, a privacy attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, reckons that , if widely used, the technology would mean that "everybody's participating, essentially, in a virtual lineup by getting a driver's license."

"Licenses started as a permission to drive, says Calabrese. "Now you need them to open a bank account. You need them to be identified everywhere ... and suddenly they're becoming the de facto law enforcement database."

However, in the north Carolina project, the DMV photo database was not released to the FBI and the project had to be carried out at the DMV offices. The FBI is not authorized to collect and store the photos.

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It's great to use all these technologies but they DO have a threat to our privacy, it's just that we don't understand the threat.

A big part of the problem is that there is just not enough security in organizations such as the DMVs to ensure that the information won't be sold to the wrong people.

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