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Facial recognition technology best long-term solution for national security: Experts

Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Monday, 13 May 2019 00:40

  • Police urged to set up “common facial recognition database” on terrorists, criminals and suspects for automatic verification of visitors at hotels and other public establishments


In the wake of unprecedented Easter Sunday extremist terror attacks, introduction and widespread use of superior yet cost-effective facial recognition technology is the best long-term solution for better national security according to experts.

They said that rollout of nationwide facial recognition technology is essential and must be part of a broader digitalisation of the Police initiative. 

“In such a security and intelligence eco system, the law enforcement authorities must maintain a common facial recognition database on terrorists, criminals and suspects. Fingerprint and facial recognition can be obtained through handheld devices,” experts explained. 

A key reason is that brick and mortar or traditional scanner type solutions have shortcomings such as requiring physical space and less cost-effective and require capital investments.

“IT-enabled solutions which are constantly updated are far superior and more precise apart from being user friendly and data-base driven that can be scaled up,” experts pointed out.

Given the rapid advancement in technology and superior benefits, worldwide many countries have implemented or rolling out facial recognition for smart national, public and institutional security.

Global examples include US, UK Italy, Russia, Australia, China, Malaysia and even Kenya.

The FBI is piloting Amazon’s facial matching software—Amazon Rekognition—as a means to sift through mountains of video surveillance footage the agency routinely collects during investigations.

The pilot kicked off in early 2018 following a string of high-profile counterterrorism investigations that tested the limits of the FBI’s technological capabilities, according to FBI officials.

For example, in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas carried out by Stephen Paddock, the law enforcement agency collected a petabyte worth of data, much of it video from cellphones and surveillance cameras.

According to a report in www.nextgov.com, FBI Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Christine Halvorsen was quoted as saying: “We had agents and analysts, eight per shift, working 24/7 for three weeks going through the video footage of everywhere Stephen Paddock was the month leading up to him coming and doing the shooting.” 

She said Amazon Rekognition could have gone through the same trove of data from the Las Vegas shooting “in 24 hours”—or three weeks faster than it took human FBI agents to find every instance of Paddock’s face in the mountain of video.  

“Think about that,” Halvorsen said, noting that technology like Amazon Rekognition frees up FBI agents and analysts to apply their skills to other aspects of the investigation or other cases.

“The cases don’t stop, the threats keep going,” Halvorsen added. “Being able to not pull people off that and have computers do it is very important.”

As per nextgov.com report (accessible online at https://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2019/01/fbi-trying-amazons-facial-recognition-software/153888/), while Amazon is now a significant supplier of technology to the government—much of it through its cloud business, AWS, which includes the CIA and Defense Department as customers—it is less clear how its facial recognition software is being used in the public sector. 

The Daily Beast reported the company pitched the software to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials last summer, a move that has lawmakers and Amazon employees asking questions. The company does not list any federal clients on its customer page, and currently only identifies as a customer one local law enforcement agency, the Washington County Sheriff Office. According to press reports, the city of Orlando recently began a second pilot of Amazon’s Rekognition software.  


Italy in July last year introduced SARI (Automated System for Image Recognition) following an eight-month testing phase and it has already helped in the arrests of shoplifters and burglars across the country. It’s based on a database of 16 million mugshots, nine million of which belong to people who have been identified by the police only once. The State police described the new system as a more advanced interface of AFIS, the automated fingerprint identification system that’s been in use for many years and which contains not only the fingerprints but also mugshots of suspects.

“If before we could describe the physical appearance of a subject, identified by a picture, only by manually entering the written information into our database, now we can enter the picture itself into the system,” forensics department official Fabiola Mancone told national press agency ANSA according to a report in www.zdnet.com.


In Russia, the number of video cameras in Moscow’s public surveillance network equipped with facial biometrics will grow by 70 times from 1,500 currently to 105,000 by the end of the year.

At present, only 1.5% of the 167,000 video cameras in the city’s public network are equipped with facial recognition, but the system is already used to investigate 70% of crimes in Moscow, issue 45,000 traffic fines each day, and reduce the response time of first responders by 20%, according to authorities.

The facial recognition system deployed for the 2018 World Cup of soccer in Russia led to the police detention of 12 criminals from federal wanted lists and eight pickpockets, as well as 60 people banned from football matches, Lysenko says according to a report in www.biometricupdate.com. (See www.biometricupdate.com/201904/moscows-cctv-network-to-deploy-facial-recognition-to-70-times-more-cameras-this-year).

The government plans to significantly expand its use of facial recognition beyond public CCTV cameras, as well.

“In future, 5G will allow us to expand the system with new devices like facial recognition glasses for police officers,” Lysenko says. “We are testing augmented reality glasses with embedded facial recognition capabilities together with Ntechlab company, which is known for creating the facial recognition tool FindFace.”

Ntechlab’s technology is also used in the CCTV network, and Moscow’s Department of Information Technology began testing its facial recognition with AR glasses earlier this year.

Moscow’s IT department has its own AI division, Lysenko says, and it is working with companies to develop autonomous driving and remote healthcare technologies.

Russia’s central bank also issued recommendations for financial institutions in the country registering citizens in its centralised biometric databases in March. 


www.biometricupdate.com quoting Malay Mail, reported that the State of Penang in Malaysia has launched the first public facial recognition system in the country to the CCTV network on Penang Island to help police track down wanted criminals and reduce crime. 

The city surveillance system uses AI to identify faces captured by the CCTV network operated by Penang Island City Council (MBPP). IBM Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA) technology is used for facial recognition. It will be rolled out over a three-year period from December 2017 through 2020, with a cost of RM12 million ($2.89 million).

“Wanted persons can be traced using this system and this system is fully linked with the police operations room in Penang,” Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said in a speech at the MBPP Operation Centre.

The MBPP is in the process of installing 150 new cameras to expand its network of 767 CCTV cameras, while the mainland Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) is adding 94 cameras to its 130-camera network. Most of the cameras are located at major roads, intersections, and hotspots for criminal activity.

The system will be used for other smart city purposes than just crime reduction. “The IVA can trace various traffic violations such as illegal parking, vehicles that used the emergency lanes, measure water level when it rains and facial recognition of people captured by the CCTV,” says MBPP Mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang.

The system is being paid for at the state level, and a local government official told the Malay Mail that he hopes the federal government will consider subsidising the system and extending it nation-wide.

Malaysia’s auxiliary police force began using body cameras with facial recognition technology provided by YITU last year.


Joining the global adoption of facial recognition is Kenya with its Police launching facial recognition on urban CCTV network.

Kenya’s National Police Service (NPS) has launched a facial recognition system for CCTV cameras installed along major roads and highways as part of an upgrade of its Integrated Command and Control System (ICCS), Kenyans.co.ke reports.

The ICCS CCTV network, which includes thousands of cameras, already has implemented license plate recognition technology. The facial recognition system will be monitored by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations as part of the Critical Incident Management Suite (CIMS), and will issue alerts to law enforcement when a suspect is identified, according to the report.

“The technology was installed in partnership with a Japanese electronics company and will help in fast and accurate identification of suspects,” said Inspector General of Police Joseph Kipchirchir Boinett in a statement. Boinett also said the system would be deployed in both Nairobi and Mombasa.

A screenshot which appears to be from the launch presentation, published by Kenyans.co.ke, identifies the facial recognition system as NEC’s NeoFace. NEC VP of Federal Operations Benji Hutchinson told Biometric Update in a recent interview that improvements in facial recognition technology have made its deployment much more cost-effective. NeoFace was recently deployed for public security and access control at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia.

The same technology could also reportedly be used by police in situations in which a suspect cannot be identified by fingerprints.

The Kenyan Government is also deploying biometric kits to hospitals in a bid to stamp out health insurance fraud. 

(Source: https://www.biometricupdate.com/201809/kenyan-police-launch-facial-recognition-on-urban-cctv-network).


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