Crowd Scanning Machine Automatically Identifies People by Their Face

Crowd Scanning Machine Automatically Identifies People by Their Face

Crowd Scanning Machine Automatically Identifies People by Their FaceImagine leisurely strolling down the street after a long day at the office. You casually stroll by people, places of business, homes when all of a sudden you get that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach like you are being followed. You quickly turn around and see…nobody! Hmmm, you could have sworn someone would have been there. Oh well, you continue on with your walk, but you can’t help but think could someone or something, maybe a surveillance-type machine, be watching?

Ever heard of a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS)? Probably not, especially since documents have just recently been released, although the project has been in the works for two years.

Beginning as an effort to help the military detect potential suicide bombers and other terrorists overseas at outdoor polling places in Afghanistan and Iraq, in 2010, BOSS was given to the Department of Homeland Security to be developed for use by the police.

This system consists of two towers bearing robotic camera structures with infrared distance sensors that take pictures of the same subject from slightly different angles. A computer then processes the images into a “3-D signature” built from data, such as the ratios between various points on someone’s face to be compared against data about faces stored in a watch-list database for instances like searching for terrorism suspects, identifying fugitives and identifying card cheats in casinos.

Although automated matching of close-up photos has improved, there are still technical hurdles involving crowd scans from a distance as it is still too slow and unreliable. However, significant advances are being made, which of course makes privacy advocates a bit leery. They say now is the time for the government to establish rules on crowd scanning and how BOSS should and should not be used in the future so everyone’s privacy is protected.

Well, folks, this is some of your tax dollars hard at work right here. $5.2 million of it!

So, readers, what do you think? Is BOSS a good use of money? Or, do you think this is just another way for the government to invade the privacy of citizens?

What rules and/or limitations do you think should be placed on BOSS, if any?

Do you think there is a better way to identify terrorists, criminals, etc. in crowds?  If so, how?

I look forward to discussing this with you.


Posted by Ginger Hill on Aug 21, 2013

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