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US govt intel researchers to ‘radically expand’ facial recognition capabilities

surveillance-camera_siThe United States intelligence community’s research arm is set to launch a program that will thoroughly broaden the capabilities of biometric facial recognition software in order to establish an individual’s identity.

The Janus program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects  Agency (IARPA) will begin in April 2014 in an effort to   “radically expand the range of conditions under which  automated face recognition can establish identity,” according  to documents released by the agency over the weekend.

Janus “seeks to improve face recognition performance using  representations developed from real-world video and images  instead of from calibrated and constrained collections. During  daily activities, people laugh, smile, frown, yawn and morph  their faces into a broad variety of expressions. For each face,  these expressions are formed from unique skeletal and musculature  features that are similar through one’s lifetime. Janus  representations will exploit the full morphological dynamics of  the face to enable better matching and faster retrieval.”

Current facial recognition relies mostly on full-frontal, aligned  facial views. But, in the words of Military & Aerospace  Electronics, Janus will fuse “the rich spatial, temporal, and  contextual information available from the multiple views captured  by security cameras, cell phone cameras, news video, and other  sources referred to as ‘media in the wild.’”

In addition, Janus will take into account aging and incomplete or  ambiguous data for its recognition assessment goals.

IARPA was created in 2006 and is a division of the Office of the  Director of National Intelligence. The intelligence agency is  modeled after DARPA, the Pentagon’s notorious research arm that  fosters technology for future military utilization.

In-Q-Tel, a not-for-profit venture capital firm run by the  Central Intelligence Agency, invests in companies that develop  facial recognition software.

In an age of ubiquitous surveillance video amid a severe lag of  legal protections for privacy, civil liberties advocates are  expressing concern.

IARPA’s effort to significantly boost facial recognition  capabilities “represents a quantum leap in the amount of  surveillance taking place in public places,” said Jay  Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil  Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, as  quoted by USA Today.

Stanley noted that law enforcement and the like could easily run  random facial recognition programs over surveillance video to  assess the identities of crowds in public places without  oversight.

IARPA gave industry representatives a solicitation briefing on  the program in June, according to media reports.

Late last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation published a request for information in developing   “a roadmap for the FBI’s future video analytics  architecture” as the agency prepares to make its high-tech  surveillance abilities all the more powerful.

In September, the Department of Homeland Security tested its Biometric Optical Surveillance System  (BOSS) at a junior hockey game in Washington state. When it’s  fully operational, BOSS could be used to identify a person of  interest among a massive crowd in just seconds.

Over the summer, the state of Ohio admitted it had access to a facial recognition  database that included all state-wide driver’s license photos and  mug shots without the public’s knowledge.




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