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By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice, American Military University
Facial recognition technology can be a major advantage to homeland security and law enforcement officials because it provides a pathway to quickly identify individuals. This is important because research has shown that machines are quicker and more effective at matching a photo to the person than humans are.
Facial recognition technology can aid in criminal and homeland security investigations because a suspect’s photograph can be analyzed and compared to a large database of photographs that match similar characteristics of the individual in question.
Some law enforcement agencies utilize databases that compare photographs to arrest booking photos or from photographs taken with digital cameras by officers on patrol during field interviews.
FACES Created with Federal Grant
One facial recognition program that is used in Pinellas County, Florida, is called Face Analysis Comparison & Examination System (FACES). The program was started with a $3.5 million federal grant in 2000.
Since then FACES has spread across the state and now includes databases from the driver’s license system. FACES has been credited with more than 400 successful cases, including an armed robbery in which facial recognition was used to identify a suspect. The suspect’s girlfriend confirmed the ID when she was shown the video surveillance from the armed robbery.
The Miami Police Department has been testing facial recognition software from Clearview.AI, a company based in New York. This month, Miami police successfully used the facial recognition system to identify the suspect in a fatal shooting. With the assistance of this technology, the suspect was apprehended in Columbus, Ohio, within 30 hours of the shooting.
Clearview.AI’s technology has around three billion photographs in its databases. Unlike the facial recognition program used in Pinellas County, Clearview.AI searches the open web for photographs but does not search private or protected information such as private social media accounts. In addition to matching suspect information, the software developers intend to design it to identify victims of child sexual abuse and suspected terrorists.
Facial Recognition Helps Combat Human Trafficking
With the ability to search databases in the billions, these types of facial recognition software may have a major impact on combating human trafficking. For example, they may be able to identify movements of victims of human trafficking and assist in the investigation of human trafficking rings. In addition, this technology can be effective in locating missing children. This is especially promising considering that significant improvements in the accuracy of facial recognition technology is believed to have dropped error rates to as low as one percent.
It is important to note that this technology serves as an investigative tool to develop leads and can help build intelligence; but it is not a solution to making arrests and should not be used without additional evidence that develops probable cause.
Facial Recognition Technology Can Increase Homeland Security
Through the advancement of this technology, facial recognition can increase homeland security. For example, this software could be used to increase security at large public gatherings and to protect against threats at schools.
Facial recognition technology does come in for some criticism, however, which often involves privacy concerns and fears over inaccuracies. However, hundreds of law enforcement agencies ranging from local police to federal agencies are using facial recognition successfully.
It is important that homeland security and law enforcement tools continue to evolve to meet the dangers to our society. Facial recognition technology is an additional tool that can improve our nation’s security by quickly and accurately identifying both suspects and victims.
About the Author: Dr. Jarrod Sadulski is an associate professor at American Military University. He has engaged in speaking engagements in the United States, Central America, and Europe on the topics of human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, police responses to domestic terrorism, and various topics in policing. Most recently, he presented at the 2019 International Human Trafficking Conference. His expertise includes infrastructure security, maritime security, homeland security contraband interdiction and intelligence gathering. To contact the author, email IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.