14: Case Study: Super Bowl Surveillance in Software

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14: Case Study: Super Bowl Surveillance
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ognition software in Massachusetts received strong support from Congress last year from the Massachusetts delegation led by Senator Ted Kennedy The result was a $1 million appropriation to the state s police departments In July 2002, Steve Cooper, the Chief Information Officer of the Office of Homeland Security, stated that the administration supports using biometric identification technologies, such as facial recognition, to improve security at US borders, in air travel, in federal buildings and other locations As for public safety, while facial recognition did not lead to any arrests at the Super Bowl, there is evidence that using such a system can help deter crime The United Kingdom s experience is instructive In October 1998, the council in Newham, England, introduced facial recognition software; the police installed 300 surveillance cameras and incorporated facial recognition technology Data captured are compared against a police database of approximately 100 convicted robbers known to be recently active in the area According to a November 2001 report of the UK s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, street robberies in the Newham city center fell by 34 percent The report notes, however, that the system has not led directly to any arrests, which suggests that its effect is largely due to deterrence/displacement of crime Nonetheless, 93 percent of the residents support its use5 Moreover, the facial recognition system used at the Super Bowl was not physically invasive or intrusive for spectators In fact, it was much less invasive than a metal detector at a public building or an inauguration parade checkpoint or a shoe search at an airport In this sense, facial recognition helped to protect the privacy of individuals, who otherwise might have had to endure more individualized police attention One potential criticism is that the known criminals (for example, convicted felons) placed in such a database may face heightened police scrutiny once they are identified in a public setting, despite the fact that they have paid their debt to society One response to this concern is that known criminals already face heightened police scrutiny For example, a prior criminal record has long been a standard screening tool when police are developing a list of suspects, and law enforcement routinely checks latent fingerprints found at a crime scene against databases containing fingerprints of those with prior criminal histories While there is also the danger that the biometric facial recognition system will make an incorrect match, that danger exists whether one is using facial recognition or traditional methods of identification such as comparing mugshots Moreover, the potential for error is reduced when matches made by biometric facial recognition are subsequently confirmed by law enforcement professionals In this sense, the facial recognition system does the screening by
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United Kingdom, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 2001, Postnote, Biometrics and Security, Number 165, November The UK s Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology is an office of both Houses of Parliament
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culling out the best possible matches from a large database, and humans then make the judgment call As facial recognition technology improves, such misidentifications will likely become rarer The technological impartiality of facial recognition also offers a significant benefit for society While humans are adept at recognizing facial features, we also have prejudices and preconceptions The controversy surrounding racial profiling is a leading example Facial recognition systems do not focus on a person s skin color, hairstyle, or manner of dress, and they do not rely on racial stereotypes On the contrary, a typical system uses objectively measurable facial features, such as the distances and angles between geometric points on the face, to recognize a specific individual With biometrics, human recognition can become relatively more human-free and therefore free from many human flaws While realizing that facial recognition has the potential to be misused in ways that could erode individual privacy, we must also acknowledge that this biometric technology has many positive uses as well The 2001 Super Bowl introduced its potential to help prevent terrorist acts and criminal incidents at high-profile events Facial recognition can also have beneficial uses closer to home As just one example, many parents would most likely feel safer knowing their children s school had a facial recognition system to ensure that convicted child molesters were not granted access to school grounds
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While we must remain alert to potential abuses, it would be ill advised to denounce the technology s use under all circumstances Instead, our efforts should focus on identifying potential dangers and addressing those concerns with specific safeguards As the preceding discussion demonstrates, one potential danger is function creep that is, databases individually designed for a specific purpose, such as screening for suspected terrorists at a large sporting event, could be easily interlinked with databases designed for other purposes, such as locating those who are delinquent on child support payments or have overdue library books The interlinking and interoperability of massive databases could lead to several problems The most serious of these potential problems is that much more private information is collected and revealed to the government entity than is necessary to achieve the purpose of the surveillance And as a consequence, the damage caused by inadvertent disclosure or unauthorized access to the database is much greater To prevent the unnecessary growth and interlinking of databases, specific protocols should be established to govern what information is authorized to reside in the database At a minimum, the government entity maintaining the database should provide an articulable reason why the information is needed, how long it needs to be retained in the database, and under what conditions the information may be disseminated or shared with others To ensure the accuracy of the information compiled in the database, a clear set of standards should set forth the criteria
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