21 Sept2013: DHS to test facial recognition technology at WA State hockey game


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(TRUNEWS) – Hockey fans in Washington state will have more to worry about this weekend than avoiding a puck to the face: the Department of Homeland Security will be testing out a new facial recognition system at an arena this Saturday.

The 6,000 seat Toyota Center in Kennewick, Washington will be the site on Saturday for more than just the Tri-City American’s season opener. In addition to hosting a junior ice hockey game, the arena will also facilitate the testing of a DHS program that’s raising concerns among privacy advocates.

Homeland Security will have a presence at Saturday’s game, but won’t be conducting any pat-downs on patrons or even rooting for the home team. Instead, DHS will utilize a sophisticated system of cameras to collect pictures of attendees in real-time from as far away as 100 meters and then match them up with images of faces stored on a database.

The exercise will mark the latest drill for the DHS’ Biometric Optical Surveillance System, or BOSS, and when it’s fully operational it could be used to identify a person of interest among a massive crowd in the span of only seconds.

With assistance from researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, DHS will attempt to quickly compare faces caught on camera with the biometric information of 20 volunteers. The other faces in the crowd — potentially 5,980 hockey fans — will exist as background noise to see how accurate BOSS is when it comes down to locating a person of interest.

This isn’t the first time that the DHS and PNNL teamed up with the Toyota Center, but researchers are hoping that this endeavor will be the most successful yet. The New York Times’ Charlie Savage reported last month that the technology was tested recently at the arena, but the government determined at the time that the product “was not ready for a DHS customer.” If it succeeds this time around, however, it could open the door for deploying similar systems at international crossings and other hubs across the United States patrolled by DHS.

According to Savage, earlier testing proved unsuccessful because it took operators roughly 30 seconds to identify a person caught on camera with its database of photographic mug shots. Biometric specialists who spoke to the Times told Savage that 30 seconds “was far too long to process an image for security purposes,” and he reported that, without a lightning-quick turnaround, “accuracy numbers would result in the police going out to question too many innocent people.”

Of course, the DHS isn’t exactly looking for terrorists at Saturday’s game in Kennewick, a small city of under 100,000 residents that’s roughly 50 miles from Walla Walla, WA. As surveillance camera with similar capabilities are increasingly rolled out in public spaces across America, however, similar technology could soon be implemented by small-town police departments to pick people out of crowds who have been accused of essentially anything.

This technology is always billed as antiterrorism, but then it drifts into other applications,” Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told Savage for last month’s report. “We need a real conversation about whether and how we want this technology to be used, and now is the time for that debate.”

Read Original: http://www.trunews.com/dhs-test-facial-recognition-technology-hockey-game/

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1 thought on “21 Sept2013: DHS to test facial recognition technology at WA State hockey game”

  1. Stephanie, This fact has been announced on the news and touted as a great stride for the technology and thinking people would like to be seen on the camera. They did tell people where the cameras were going to be so if they wished they could avoid them. It was as if it were the greatest thing. Jim

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