Weatherford Democrat

Online Only

June 19, 2013

State photo-ID databases become troves for police

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

Depending on the importance of the case, federal agents can potentially tap facial databases held by driver's-license registries, state criminal justice systems, the FBI, the State Department and the Defense Department, which has several million searchable faces, mostly Afghans and Iraqi men. Together these amount to an estimated 400 million facial images in government hands, though the rules on access to each database varies. (Often an individual is pictured in more than one database, or even more than once in a single one.)

Federal investigators searched several facial databases in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in April, officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. But the images were not clear enough to produce hits, even though both of the alleged bombers had driver's licenses in Massachusetts, a state that uses facial-recognition technology.

Yet as facial databases grow and video cameras become more prevalent and powerful, such searches will become more effective, experts say.

"More and more, what you're going to see is criminals and other people whose images were taken over the years are digitized, [and] put into these databases, and incidents like Boston will be easier to solve," said James Albers, senior vice president for government operations for MorphoTrust USA.

The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says its facial-recognition unit conducts 5,000 searches a month and has assisted in nearly 1,000 arrests since 2004. A bulletin board in the office is lined with success stories: A teenage boy who was sending lewd messages to young girls through multiple Facebook accounts was identified, as was a suicide victim and an alleged bank robber — whose scowling image was captured by the branch's surveillance camera.

In another case, a man reported a stolen computer but then noticed that an online photo album he long had maintained was automatically uploading new snapshots of a couple he did not recognize. When the sheriff's office ran a search, the pictures matched faces in both the mug-shot and driver's-license databases. The couple soon fingered an acquaintance who was arrested for stealing the computer and then selling it to them.

Text Only
Online Only
Must Read
Top News
House Ads
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment