Facial recognition around the world

Many other countries are moving much more aggressively than the United States on implementing face recognition technologies ' particularly for surveillance.

'Worldwide, outside of the United States, there is a strong market for video surveillance requirements,' said Roger Kelesoglu, business development executive at Cognitec Systems. 'In the United States, it's more used for [identification] cards.'

Joseph Atick, executive vice president at L-1 Identity Solutions, agrees. He added, however, that 'that's not to say that the intelligence agencies are not utilizing facial recognition' for such surveillance purposes. While noting that he's not at liberty to discuss specifics, Atick said he's aware of many implementations overseas where face recognition is being used as a surveillance tool. He can't talk about details because 'they tend to be applications related to national security.'

In short, in the United States as well as overseas, the public may not be aware of the most cutting-edge implementation of face recognition technologies. Still, information that has been made public shows a broader adoption of these technologies overseas.

Most recently, Atick says, the Australian national police conducted three large-scale trials to see whether the technology would work in the open airport environment, in a parking garage and on a wharf. 'The conclusion they reached was that, indeed, the technology has reached a point where they would go ahead with deployment,' Atick said. While the trials themselves were reported in the media, the specific results have not been made public.

The Australian Customs Service already has an automated border processing system called SmartGate that uses face recognition. It compares the face of the individual with the image in the e-passport microchip, certifying that the person presenting the passport is the rightful owner.

In September 2006, the German Federal Criminal Police Office announced it had awarded a contract to Cognitec Systems to provide a system to identify suspects by comparing surveillance images to a digital photo archive.

Cognitec also won a major contract in January 2007 to provide an ID verification system to Estonia.

By all reports, no government has been more aggressive in implementing surveillance technologies ' including facial recognition ' than the United Kingdom. In 2004, it was estimated that there were more than 4 million surveillance cameras in the United Kingdom, with public areas in nearly all town centers covered. It is not known just how many localities employ face recognition with these systems, but the London borough of Newham has publicly acknowledged using such a system.

Finally, a pilot program conducted by Britain's Police Information Technology Organization was launched in October 2006 to share mug shots and video images across all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Called FIND ' for Facial Images National Database ' the program will reportedly explore the use of face recognition systems to perform identification matches.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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