The Department of Homeland Security is set to test new facial recognition technology at the Tri-Cities Americans home opener at Toyota Center in Kennewick next weekend as part of its long term mission “to identify terrorists and criminals in public areas.”
The DHS will work with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to run the test during a portion of a game on September 21.
Hockey fans who don’t want to become an unwitting part of the test will have to follow signs routing them away from the cameras.
PNNL staff members will participate in the test, which will attempt to match their identities with photographs as they move around the stadium.
The staffers will wear ankle bracelets which will send a signal to the cameras when they are close enough to be photographed and matched with the still shots.
Researchers admit that “a hockey fan’s face could be incorrectly identified as the person for whom the video is searching,” but Patty Wolfhope, program manager at the Department of Homeland Security, claims that no names will be collected….at least not for now.
“I think it’s in our best interest to help facilitate the development of the technology,” said Cory Pearson, executive director of VenuWorks, which operates the center. “It’s in everybody’s best interest.”
Critics of how surveillance powers are increasingly being abused in light of the plethora of recent NSA scandals probably won’t see facial recognition technology being in the best interests of those who still value privacy.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) recently highlighted the fact that the DHS’s ‘Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS)’ has no in-built privacy safeguards and that databases of facial profiles may not be limited to just criminals and terrorists.
“Based on the documents that we received, that’s an educated guess or a speculation and not a certainty that’s what DHS intends to do,” said EPIC’s Julia Horowitz
Face scanning cameras are already being used in a number of different commercial applications, stoking fears that we could be sleepwalking into a Minority Report-style world of high-tech invasive advertising.
The 2002 movie starring Tom Cruise depicted Cruise’s character walking through a subway station while sensors that scan his eyes address him by name and bombard him with personalized ads. Another clip shows people boarding a train also having their irises scanned for approval. The movie was based on a dystopian short story by Philip K. Dick which warned of how such technology would be used in the future to crush privacy and civil liberties.
It is strongly suspected that facial recognition cameras are already being used to track people around major cities as part of the Trapwire surveillance program, details of which were leaked last year.
The technology is also being used in Singapore to force vendors to identify themselves before they can set up their stalls.
During the US occupation of Iraq, biometric technology was used to keep track of the population of Fallujah ”in an attempt to find and identify insurgent forces.”