Facial Recognition Prevents Terrorist Attacks

Facial recognition systems need both images and a searchable database.  Advances in Iris scanning technology make this process easier.

The US departments of Defense and Homeland Security have invested in technology to prevent attacks like the one in Brussels, including facial recognition technology that can spot and flag a suspected terrorist in a car heading toward an airport or crowded subway. 

But bringing that technology out of the lab and getting it to airports and street corners is a lot harder than just snapping a photo.

In order to thwart an attack, a facial-recognition-based system must have access to a database that already contains the would-be perpetrator’s face, sensors that can obtain usable snapshots of people approaching the protected area, and a way to alert guards or otherwise cut off access to the target. Getting all three of those at once is the challenge of securing a place like an airport’s departure area or a metro station.

In 2014, the US military tested a high-speed, multi-resolution camera capable of capturing a facial image even at an angle. The system was designed to ID someone in a moving car headed toward a base, but could be deployed on city streets or on the road to an airport.

Image capture technology has advanced since then. In 2016, you don’t even need a whole face. Iris scans can provide a more useful identifier and are becoming easier to collect. Already the United States has begun doing iris scans at a border crossing in Mexico. The US also collects fingerprint samples on refugees entering the country.

Another method, which the general public might like a little better, would be using biometric data from the mobile device they’re using. This could provide a less invasive means of collecting bio-data in the future.

The Brussels and Paris attacks could provide lawmakers and border security professionals with extra cover to seek more biometric data. That ask could come not in the form of a scan at the airport but a simple “opt-in” notification on your phone. Giving biometric information away to the government could become much simpler.

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