Police Services Seek Face Recognition Technologies

50093306 - face recognition - biometric security system. face scanning, front view of human head. vector illustration

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

Police services around the world use facial recognition databases in order to identify criminals. Nearly half of all American adults have been entered into law enforcement facial recognition databases, according to a recent report published by Georgetown University’s law school.

Now law enforcement officials in Finland say they want police to be able to acquire and use facial recognition technologies which would help them identify people more easily from the vast amount of images that its network of surveillance cameras provide. A working group at Finland’s National Police Board is examining the constitutionality of implementing facial recognition tech and the cost of such system.

Face recognition is the automated process of comparing two images of faces to determine whether they represent the same individual, explains the Georgetown University report. Before face recognition can identify someone, an algorithm must first find that person’s face within the photo. This is called face detection. Once detected, a face is “normalized” – scaled, rotated, and aligned so that every face that the algorithm processes is in the same position. This makes it easier to compare the faces. Next, the algorithm extracts features from the face—characteristics that can be numerically quantified, like eye position or skin texture. Finally, the algorithm examines pairs of faces and issues a numerical score reflecting the similarity of their features.

According to yle.fi, the Finnish police monitor its surveillance cameras in cities, along roadways and in towns across the country every day. When a crime is committed near one of these cameras, police must pore through hundreds of images manually and – in real time – watch hours of video to find out what actually took place.

Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) spokesperson Arto Tuomela commented that the task is so great that police have a special group of investigators who are charged with manually reviewing those images, one at a time. The time-consuming process is also susceptible to human error. Currently, Tuomela says police are unable to properly process all of those surveillance camera images and video. “The new technology could help to speed up a criminal investigation,” he says.

Acquiring facial recognition technology would help to reduce law enforcement’s workloads, he added. Such technology is already in widespread use by government agencies in countries like China, the US, Australia and New Zealand. The technology is either implemented or being examined by officials in countries across Europe and in the UK.

Tuomela says that Finland may be able to start using facial recognition tech in two years, at the earliest.