It's still not 1984 for facial biometrics

It's still not 1984 for facial biometrics

How close is facial biometrics to George Orwell's Big Brother? Not very.

At Super Bowl XXXV, people were surprised to learn that their faces were monitored in the crowd by sophisticated technology looking for terrorists. But the technology is still a long way from perfect. Facial biometrics is one of the most expensive, complex and untested forms of authentication.

Company officials at Anadac Inc. of Arlington, Va., a developer of facial recognition applications, said the technology is not accurate enough to verify an individual for admittance to a secure area unless backed up by another form of authentication. Officials also said they believe its primary use should be to catalog individuals, for example, in prisons or police stations.

Anadac's DC Track facial recognition technology recognizes specific characteristics or minutiae points'about 87 of them'on a human face. A digital camera records the face, and an algorithm extracts identifiable characteristics and translates them into an identifying code.

But the lighting must be perfect. The camera, from Visionics Corp. of Jersey City, N.J., must line up the image perfectly.

Individual registration requires four good images, plus a fifth as a test. The software search takes up to two minutes. It looks for a match twice. Results are displayed with a confidence level from 0 to 100. For a good match, the confidence level must exceed 60 percent, or 70 percent for law enforcement purposes.

'Carlos A. Soto


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