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

Published time: November 13, 2013 04:02
Edited time: November 13, 2013 05:25
Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP

Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP

The 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.

Comments (15)


mergon 22.07.2014 11:55

Well i was your average 100% all male [ no disrespect to gay guys ] would i be seen in make up ? i dont think so but how things have changed im still 100% all male but im getting some silver metalic make up for when im out in the car ,im not allowed to tint my front windows ,if i do they will pull me over impound my vehicle and fine me so think i will make them work for it and use the make up or get an eye patch with a hole in it either way fk em there are just to many cameras and nosey coppers


mergon 22.07.2014 11:48

Vice 14.11.2013 14:09

En emy of the State - 1998

Dir by Tony Scott.
Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet.


dont forget the conversation !


Vice 14.11.2013 14:09

Paul Hirsh 13.11.2013 11:01

It was Jack Bauer (in the series "24") that gave them the idea. Along with the Afro-Americab president. Check out the last season to see what else they will come up with.


En emy of the State - 1998

Dir by Tony Scott.
Will Smith, Gene Hackman, Jon Voight, Lisa Bonet.

View all comments (15)
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