FBI’s Facial Recognition Software Could Fail 20 Percent of the Time

  Tech trouble: The software systems aren't online yet. Tech trouble: The software systems aren't online yet.  
National Journal
Dustin Volz
See more stories about...
Dustin Volz
Oct. 14, 2013, 6:04 a.m.

The Fed­er­al Bur­eau of In­vest­ig­a­tion’s fa­cial-re­cog­ni­tion tech­no­logy, used to identi­fy in­di­vidu­als and as­sist in in­vest­ig­a­tions, could fail one in every five times it is used, new doc­u­ments show.

A 2010 re­port re­cently made pub­lic by the Elec­tron­ic Pri­vacy In­form­a­tion Cen­ter through a Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act re­quest states that the fa­cial-re­cog­ni­tion tech­no­logy “shall re­turn an in­cor­rect can­did­ate a max­im­um of 20% of the time.” When the tech­no­logy is used against a search­able re­pos­it­ory, it “shall re­turn the cor­rect can­did­ate a min­im­um of 85% of the time.”

“An in­no­cent per­son may be­come part of an in­vest­ig­a­tion be­cause the tech­no­logy isn’t com­pletely ac­cur­ate,” said Jeram­ie Scott, an at­tor­ney with EPIC who re­viewed the doc­u­ments, cit­ing the Bo­ston Mara­thon bomb­ings as an ex­ample. “They’re push­ing it for­ward even though the tech­no­logy isn’t ready for prime time.”

FBI of­fi­cials could not be reached for com­ment, per­haps ow­ing to the gov­ern­ment shut­down.

The num­bers pos­ted by fa­cial-re­cog­ni­tion soft­ware com­pare un­fa­vor­ably with oth­er iden­ti­fic­a­tion tech­niques used as part of the bur­eau’s Next Gen­er­a­tion Iden­ti­fic­a­tion pro­gram, in­clud­ing fin­ger­print­ing, which yields an ac­cur­ate match 99 per­cent of the time when comb­ing a data­base, and iris scans, which field cor­rect matches 98 per­cent of the time.

Cur­rently, no fed­er­al laws lim­it the use of fa­cial-re­cog­ni­tion soft­ware by private-sec­tor com­pan­ies or the gov­ern­ment, and it is used in var­ied ap­plic­a­tions, from law en­force­ment, to so­cial net­works and by mo­tor vehicle de­part­ments in sev­er­al states.

Last year, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., ex­pressed con­cern dur­ing a Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing that fa­cial-re­cog­ni­tion tech­no­logy could be used to vi­ol­ate a per­son’s pri­vacy without their know­ledge.

In terms of law en­force­ment, the fail­ure rate may un­der­mine the FBI’s in­ten­tion to use next-gen­er­a­tion tech­no­logy to identi­fy crim­in­al sus­pects be­ing sought in act­ive in­vest­ig­a­tions, Scott said.

Doc­u­ments dug up by EPIC earli­er this year re­vealed a Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment ini­ti­at­ive known as the Bio­met­ric Op­tic­al Sur­veil­lance Sys­tem that is work­ing to use com­puters and cam­er­as to quickly scan crowds and identi­fy people. Though face-scan­ning tech­no­logy has im­proved dra­mat­ic­ally in re­cent years — as demon­strated by Face­book, which for years has fea­tured an “auto-tag” fea­ture that scans up­loaded pho­tos — ac­cur­ately pulling a face from a crowd is still a dif­fi­cult chal­lenge.

Jerome Pen­d­er, who was then the deputy as­sist­ant dir­ect­or of the FBI’s crim­in­al-justice in­form­a­tion ser­vices di­vi­sion, told Con­gress last year that the bur­eau was plan­ning to up­date its 2008 Pri­vacy Im­pact As­sess­ment, which would “ad­dress all evol­u­tion­ary changes” in the use of fa­cial-re­cog­ni­tion tech­no­logy over the past sev­er­al years. But the FBI has yet to re­lease a re­vised as­sess­ment, Scott said.

What We're Following See More »
BACKING OUT ON BERNIE
Trump Won’t Debate Sanders After All
23 hours ago
THE LATEST

Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”

AKNOWLEDGING THE INEVITABLE
UAW: Time to Unite Behind Hillary
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"It's about time for unity," said UAW President Dennis Williams. "We're endorsing Hillary Clinton. She's gotten 3 million more votes than Bernie, a million more votes than Donald Trump. She's our nominee." He called Sanders "a great friend of the UAW" while saying Trump "does not support the economic security of UAW families." Some 28 percent of UAW members indicated their support for Trump in an internal survey.

Source:
AP KEEPING COUNT
Trump Clinches Enough Delegates for the Nomination
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Donald Trump on Thursday reached the number of delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination for president, completing an unlikely rise that has upended the political landscape and sets the stage for a bitter fall campaign. Trump was put over the top in the Associated Press delegate count by a small number of the party's unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the convention."

Source:
TRUMP FLOATED IDEA ON JIMMY KIMMEL’S SHOW
Trump/Sanders Debate Before California Primary?
2 days ago
THE LATEST
CAMPAIGNS INJECTED NEW AD MONEY
California: It’s Not Over Yet
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Clinton and Bernie Sanders "are now devoting additional money to television advertising. A day after Sanders announced a new ad buy of less than $2 million in the state, Clinton announced her own television campaign. Ads featuring actor Morgan Freeman as well as labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta will air beginning on Fridayin Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles media markets. Some ads will also target Latino voters and Asian American voters. The total value of the buy is about six figures according to the Clinton campaign." Meanwhile, a new poll shows Sanders within the margin of error, trailing Clinton 44%-46%.

Source:
×