Re: [AP] Automated video-scanning for criminal mugshots

From: Matt Jensen (
Date: Sun Feb 04 2001 - 19:08:48 PST

On Fri, 2 Feb 2001, Strata Rose Chalup wrote:

> This kind of thing sounds reasonable, but I seriously doubt that the
> mug shot checker runs in realtime. It is extraordinarily unlikely
> that the mug shot checker can in any substantial way reduce the
> risk of 50K people being killed at a Super Bowl.

The mug shot checker *does* run in realtime, and classifies a face within
milliseconds. However, it apparently has terrible accuracy...

" "The laboratory results suggest that this type of system has no
chance in hell of working" for more than a rough filtering of suspects,
said Jim Wayman, director of San Jose State University's Biometric Test
Center, a federally funded testing lab.

Indeed, a recent study found that digital comparisons of posed photos of
the same person taken 18 months apart triggered false rejection by
computers 43% of the time, according to the National Institute of
Standards and Technology. A forthcoming Defense Department study
substantially validates that finding, Wayman said.

"To these systems . . . one out of every 50 people looks like Carlos the
Jackal," an infamous terrorist, he said. "And the real Carlos has only a
50% chance of looking like himself.""

So, that's a good, practical reason not to deploy such a system.
Although there might be a deterrent effect, where criminals stay away
because they think you've got a great system, assuming the above story
doesn't get as much press as the original stories. But again, we're
getting sucked into cost/benefit analysis, when there is no way to assess
the cost to our privacy.

> I *am* saying that it's
> not at all a cut and dried case of "my privacy vs. 50K lives".

I don't buy it either, which was my main point, but perhaps instead of
parenthesis I should have put that position in quotation marks.

-Matt Jensen

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