Quoted: on facial recognition, surveillance technology and the Boston Marathon bombing

“It’s not the way it is in the movies. In real life you don’t have someone looking directly into the camera, and the ability to make a match can be very much degraded if you don’t have a full frontal.”

— Aki Peritz, a former CIA counterterrorism analyst, on the challenges of using facial recognition as authorities investigate Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing. Adding to the difficulty — but also the possibilities of finding answers — is the sheer volume of material investigators must sort through, from surveillance videos from nearby businesses to photos and videos from the news media, spectators and others. (One example of a previous effort of comparable magnitude was after the hockey-related rioting in Vancouver a couple of years ago. That brought with it the problem of “online vigilantes.” ) But the New York Times reports this morning that Boston bombing investigators have found clear video images of two people carrying black bags, and that it’s possible the images will be released to the public in an effort to help identify the men. That’s consistent with a Boston Globe report that says two men were seen at each of the bombing sites, and that officials plan to release images today. The Wall Street Journal, which quoted Peritz, points to the rise in surveillance technology in the past several years: The global market for video surveillance is expected to nearly double to $20.5 billion from 2011 to 2016, says IHS IMS Research. The rise in surveillance, of course, comes with privacy concerns that must be balanced with security concerns everywhere. For example, a couple of years ago, we mentioned that a European project aimed to create a privacy-conscious surveillance system. (See Quoted: Little Brother Is Watching?)


Photo of surveillance camera from Mercury News archives


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