Face-recognition tool nabs ID theft suspect

Pierce County, Wash., sheriff's deputies used Sagem MorphoFace Investigate system to break up a local identity theft ring.

Privacy advocates have long charged that the use of facial-recognition technology not only is a threat to privacy, it is also has proven to be ineffective. Despite a number of high-profile implementations over recent years, few if any arrests can be directly attributed to face-recognitions systems.

Score one arrest for the Pierce County (Wash.) Sheriff’s Department, which successfully used the Sagem MorphoFace Investigate (MFI) system to break up a local identity theft ring, the company announced.

The department had been investigating cases of identity theft that involved the theft of ATM cards and subsequent withdrawals from victims’ bank accounts. The only evidence obtained by detectives was a grainy photograph taken of a suspect by an ATM camera during one of the illegal transactions.

Using the MFI system, detectives searched the county’s 350,000-mug shot digital database and returned two possible matches in less than 5 seconds. It turned out that both matches were to the same person, who had a history of identity theft.

“MorphoFace Investigate provided the evidence needed by a Superior Court judge to determine probable cause and issue an arrest warrant,” Eric Hess, Sagem Morpho’s product manager for biometrics, said in a press release. “This sets a new precedent in Pierce County for facial recognition biometrics.”

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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