Print 37 comment(s) - last by mindless1.. on Sep 16 at 7:02 PM

Big Brother gets a boost from bleeding edge technology

President Barack Obama wants to trim defense spending.  Former Mass. Governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wants to bump the defense budget.  But one thing both agree on funding is funding the U.S. National Intelligence Agency's (NIA) ambitious facial recognition bid, which along with other advanced identification efforts, currently has been earmarked $1B USD in Congressional funding.

I. Facial Recognition is Now

Much of the funding goes to researchers working at Pittsburgh, Penn.'s Carnegie Mellon University.  By 2010, CMU reported [PDF] to Congress that it could pick out a person's face out of a database of 1.6m mug shots approximately 92 percent of the time.  While that high success rate did require the target be looking at the camera, Marios Savvide's lab is working to improve the algorithms so they can recognize faces at other angles too -- even if the person is looking away.

Using a 3D model of the face, the CMU algorithms render expected images from various angles for comparison.  Currently, the biggest challenge is lighting.  Results can be improved by augmenting the visible light data with infrared camera images -- but infrared cameras are expensive, and are relatively rare at public locations.

FBI tracking
The FBI is spending hundreds of millions in an effort to track U.S. citizens in public and on the internet, using advanced facial recognition. [Image Source: Hang the Bankers]

CMU researcher Alessandro Acquisti in July testimony [PDF] before the U.S. Senate told the legislators, "FACE recognition is 'now'."

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is indeed looking to roll the technology out as part of its Next Generation Identification (NGI) program. The program will also add other biometric identification technologies, including iris scans, DNA analysis, and voice identification.

Interpol -- an international policing body -- has long maintained a similar database to target high profile criminals such as international thieves, terrorists, and child sex predators.

But the new NGI effort, to be rolled out nationwide by 2014, represents the first effort to create a database of images of all criminal offenders in America.  Some states already have begun to upload their photos at the program's kickoff in February.  Currently the FBI's publicly announced plans have been limited to facial recognition on criminals.

II. Fighting Crime, or "Big Brother is Watching YOU"?

However, the FBI has also hinted that it might add photos of individuals under investigation, or individuals who appeared near high-profile persons of interest to the database.  The latter prospect has privacy advocates most alarmed, as it could land you on "Big Brother's database" without a single criminal act.

In fact, the FBI appears to be doing exactly that already, as some states now pass drivers' license headshots to the agency for future reference/screening.  The ambiguity surrounding photographic databases and facial recognition of law-abiding citizens has advocacies very upset.

Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Jennifer Lynch told the publication New Scientist that her nonprofit advocacy is concerned that the FBI is creeping towards civilian photographic databases with these efforts.  And Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union comments, "Once you start plugging this into the FBI database, it becomes tantamount to a national photographic database."

Big Brother is watching
The FBI has bipartisan support for developing facial recognition algorithms and databases to spot U.S. citizens -- regardless of whether they're criminals. [Image Source: Djibnet]

The prospect is a frightening one for several reasons.  First, some fear it could lead to an escalation in the "war on drugs", which already is responsible for the U.S.'s world leading imprisonment rate.  Second, some fear that it is a step towards an Orwellian system of crackdown on dissenters; after all, the trademark of George Orwell's iconic 1984 was "Big Brother is watching you."  Finally, such systems could easily lead to micro-scale abuses without sufficient transparency and regulation; for example an agent could potentially use the system to stalk an ex.

In short, there are many questions to be asked.  But Congress and the intelligence agencies are leaning towards pushing the program now, and shelving answers to those questions for a later date.  With the majority leadership of both parties on a federal level eager to expand domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens and throwing money at the objective, the plans are poised to rapidly escalate over the next couple years.

Sources: U.S. Senate, New Scientist

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Obviously this is the FIRST issue.
By JasonMick on 9/11/2012 2:51:02 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously Jason is more concerned that he will not be able to get his weed or porn
Thank you for your strawman argument, I'm sure that will help advance this discussion.

For the record, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I do not smoke marijuana on a regular basis and have never purchased it in my life. I am an avid runner, and smoking anything -- be it tissue paper or a psychoactive substance -- is undesirable as it damages lung function.

I don't blame you for not knowing that because you don't know me, but I do blame you for committing a logical fallacy by misrepresenting my opinion.

Do I support legalization? Yes. In my mind there is a need to regulate purity of drugs at a state or federal level, HOWEVER when it comes to substances the government has no right to tell people what to smoke/drink/snort/or otherwise ingest. It should focus its efforts on fighting actual crimes against others and treating addicts, rather than trying to fight human free will.

The risks of most drugs are widely known. Banning them just because they have adverse health or societal affects is as ineffective as any other form of censorship, in that people will simply find ways to defy the ban. People will either use drugs illegally, or simply seek out legal prescribed alternatives (e.g. people taking ADD medication as a legal alternative to cocaine/amphetamine).
Of course, who would want drug dealers to be caught before they can sell or distribute their drugs? Who wants criminals to pay for their crimes?
Drug dealers?

Oh I see, you mean the illegal ones. Because any major pharmaceutical company is a drug dealer. In fact many "deal" methamphetamine (an illegal drug on the street) as a legal prescribed medication (Aderrall) and pitch many other similar psychoactive substances.

Clearly it is logical to bloat the federal government to a massive size and lose tax revenue -- both of which increase the national deficit -- in order to preserve legal drug dealers' government-enforced cartel.

It's sad, but regularly people die from cancer, when their lives could have potentially been saved by available experimental drugs that the FDA currently prohibits.

Encouraging the government to play nanny and tell people what they can and can not put in their body is a sign of a society incapable of self-responsibility.

By Trisped on 9/12/2012 11:22:57 PM , Rating: 2
Yet again you miss the point.

The whole point of the post was that the first issue (or most important) was that this tech might be used to help the war on drugs.
What I was trying to point out, in an ironical way, is that you tend to run to sex and drugs as the first, most important, or only reason something is bad. In this case I expected the first problem with the facial recognition system to be risk of abuse, not that it would be applied legal to catch villans.

In answer to a few of the points you raised:

Most people who provide "drugs" which cannot be obtained without a prescription are called pharmacist or technician. Of course by definition food is also a drug, so my local grocer could also be considered a provider of "drugs", though most don't take the "physiological effect" of the drug name quite that far.
The slang term "drug dealer" is usually in reference to a person who deals illegal drugs.
These are all basic terms which can be easily Googled and checked, so the fact that you did not understand what I meant by "drug dealer" would be you, yet again, not understanding what is clearly stated.

As for your statement about government "... trying to fight human free will" government is a set of laws which all citizens must follow. If there are no laws, then there is no need for government. If there are laws then citizens have the option to exercise their "free will" to follow or not follow the laws. But, if they do not follow the laws then they must accept the consequences as the law dictates (go to jail, pay fine, etc).

So what laws should a government enact? It depends on your government, but in the USA the laws are suppose to be to protect the country and its citizens. Should the government need to step in and control the use of narcotics or other illegal drugs? No, people should be smart enough not to use them. Of course they are not. In fact, you are part of that group. So what? Why not let you do what you want? Well because it leads to others who are not knowledge about the harmful side effects to participate, causing irreparable harm. In the past you have implied that a person should know there will be issues, but it is impossible to know everything. As a result, to protect its most important asset, the government has enacted laws to protect its people form known hazards. Some of these laws were against the use of mercury in food products, encourage citizens to get an education, and to keep citizens on equal grounds. These laws were made in response to a growing problem, in an attempt to prevent it from destroying or damaging its citizens.

So yes, it would be nice if government did not need to pass these laws (on drugs or otherwise), but if humans could know everything and always do what is best there would be no need for government or laws at all.

"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini

Latest Headlines
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
The Samsung Galaxy S7
September 14, 2016, 6:00 AM
Apple Watch 2 – Coming September 7th
September 3, 2016, 6:30 AM
Apple says “See you on the 7th.”
September 1, 2016, 6:30 AM

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Laptop or Tablet - Which Do You Prefer?
September 20, 2016, 6:32 AM
Update: Samsung Exchange Program Now in Progress
September 20, 2016, 5:30 AM
Smartphone Screen Protectors – What To Look For
September 21, 2016, 9:33 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki