[Politech logo]

Politech is the oldest Internet resource devoted to politics and technology. Launched in 1994 by Declan McCullagh, the mailing list has chronicled the growing intersection of culture, technology, politics, and law. Since 2000, so has the Politech web site.

ACLU "dismayed" over Fresno facecams; biometric news update

Politech facecam archive:


Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 19:09:18 -0500
From: " Scully@cipherwar.com" <Scully@cipherwar.com>
To: <declan@well.com>
Subject: Facial Recognition at Fresno Airport


Here's another story about the ACLU opposing facial recognition 
software.  It seems like facial recognition stories just keep popping up 
and it may become easy for us to overlook them as just another case of the 
inevitable - but we shouldn't let that happen.  I'm wondering if anyone is 
keeping track of all the airports, bus stations, etc. that have actually 
implemented this technology?  It would also be curious to see who has 
debated it and decided not to use it.



Source: http://www.aclu.org/news/2001/n112001a.html

ACLU Calls on Fresno Airport to Remove Controversial
Facial Recognition Technology

Tuesday, November 20, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO--A controversial facial recognition technology system 
installed at Fresno's Yosemite Airport will do little to keep Americans 
safe, but threatens fundamental civil rights, the American Civil Liberties 
Union said today in a letter to the city officials.

"The ACLU fully recognizes the need for improving airport security in the 
wake of the September 11 attacks," said Jayashri Srikantiah, a staff 
attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. "However, we also believe 
that the use of intrusive new surveillance technologies must be subjected 
to a process of thoughtful and deliberate scrutiny. The effectiveness of 
facial recognition technology is open to serious question and we believe 
that it will not enhance the security of the air-traveling public in any 
meaningful way."

In letter send today to the Director of Transportation for the City of 
Fresno, the ACLU urged the City to "reconsider its decision to employ 
facial recognition on a trial basis, and to put on hold any efforts to 
implement the technology on a permanent basis." The ACLU goes on to say 
that the use of the technology "will create a false sense of security while 
severely eroding fundamental privacy rights and likely increasing the 
harassment of innocent people based solely on their ethnic appearance."

Several government agencies have abandoned facial-recognition systems after 
finding they did not work as advertised, including the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service, which experimented with using the technology to 
identify people in cars at the Mexico-U.S. border.

A study by the Department of Defense found very high error rates even under 
ideal conditions where the subject is staring directly into the camera 
under bright lights. If installed in airports, the technology would miss a 
high proportion of suspects included in the photo database, and flag huge 
numbers of innocent people -- thereby lessening vigilance, wasting manpower 
resources, and creating a false sense of security.

Nonetheless, officials at Logan Airport in Boston and T.F. Green airport in 
Providence, Rhode Island, have announced that they will be installing the 
technology. The ACLU has urged officials in these airports to reconsider 
their plans.

More information on facial recognition technology can be found at the 
ACLU's special online feature at http://www.aclu.org/features/f110101a.html.

The letter follows:

November 20, 2001

Charles R. Hayes
Director of Transportation
Airport Administration
City of Fresno
4995 East Clinton Way
Fresno, CA 93727

Dear Mr. Hayes:

According to recent news reports and our conversations with Public 
Relations and Communications Director Patti Miller, Fresno Yosemite 
International Airport has installed a facial recognition system on a trial 
basis as an added security measure in light of the tragic events of 
September 11th. While the ACLU certainly understands Fresno Yosemite's 
interest in increasing security at the airport, we are extremely dismayed 
and concerned about its decision to install a facial recognition system. 
Because facial recognition is a highly privacy-invasive technology, we 
believe its efficacy needs to be considered extremely carefully before it 
is deployed, whether on a trial or permanent basis. We believe that the 
effectiveness of facial recognition technology is open to serious question, 
and therefore, that airports should not be implementing the technology.

To begin with, facial recognition schemes are of little use without a 
photographic database of suspects. It is our understanding that the 
"terrorist database" Fresno Yosemite will be using is both rudimentary and 
tiny. While we recognize that the FBI and other federal agencies may be 
working on the database, it is unrealistic to think that it will ever 
contain the photographs of more than a small fraction of potential 
international terrorists. The database also could not include more than a 
tiny fraction of potential domestic terrorists - many of whom, like Timothy 
McVeigh, have no criminal records. It makes little sense to employ an 
intrusive system that will have little chance of success. The technology 
will not only divert resources from more effective efforts, but it will 
also create a false sense of security that will cause us to let our guard 

In addition, studies by the National Institute of Standards and Technology 
(NIST) and the Department of Defense strongly suggest that facial 
recognition systems, even when tested in far more ideal conditions than 
those of a bustling airport, would miss a high proportion of suspects 
included in the photo database, while flagging many innocent people. The 
Department of Defense study, for instance, found major "false positive" 
problems, in which the system reported a match when none existed. Police 
and airport authorities relying on facial recognition systems will 
therefore be led too often to stop, question, and detain innocent people 
instead of suspects. If the photo database consists largely, if not 
exclusively, of Middle Eastern people flagged as terrorists, the result of 
these numerous "false positives" will fall most heavily on innocent people 
of Arabic or South Asian descent and lead to yet another pattern of racial 
profiling in law enforcement.

On the flip side, the NIST study found a "false negative" rate - which 
corresponds to when the technology failed to identify persons who should 
have been identified - of 43 percent when the technology was asked to 
compare current images with photographs of the same subjects taken just 18 
months before. Independent experts agree, as the NIST study demonstrated, 
that facial recognition systems have trouble recognizing the effects of 
aging, and that changing hair or beard style or wearing glasses can fool 
systems. Differences in lighting and camera angles, as well as the fact 
that individuals are not posing for photos (but are instead being 
photographed surreptitiously as in Fresno Yosemite) are all known to 
further increase the inaccuracies of facial recognition systems.

In fact, several government agencies have abandoned facial recognition 
systems after finding that they did not work as advertised. For instance, 
the Immigration and Naturalization Service experimented with facial 
recognition technology to identify people in cars at the United 
States-Mexico border, but ultimately decided against using the technology.

We are concerned as well that there will be enormous pressure to use facial 
recognition to look for people suspected of non-terrorist activity, such as 
those with outstanding warrants from local jurisdictions, or even motorists 
with outstanding speeding tickets. If such an expanded use of facial 
recognition technology seems far-fetched, it is not. We are hard-pressed to 
think of a privacy-invasive technology instituted in our time which has 
been limited to its original use. Indeed, facial recognition technology was 
used to surreptitiously take the photos of every person attending the Super 
Bowl this year. Nobody was arrested as a result of this secret surveillance 
experiment that made every Super Bowl patron part of a giant police 
line-up. The "matches" found by the system appear to have been either 
"false positives" or of minor lawbreakers, none of whom were alleged to 
have done anything illegal during the game. Despite these serious problems 
with the technology, it was subsequently installed on Tampa's public 
streets, where its use is even less justifiable than at the Super Bowl.

The hastiness of Fresno Yosemite's decision to deploy facial recognition 
technology exacerbates our concerns about the use of the technology. 
According to our conversations with Ms. Miller, the airport did not undergo 
serious, formal deliberation before deciding to install facial recognition 
technology. Rather, the decision was made in an informal manner, and 
without public participation or debate. It appears that the vendor of the 
technology (who is providing it free of charge to Fresno Yosemite) will be 
deciding weighty questions such as who will have access to the database and 
what level of "match" should trigger an alarm.

We fully recognize that the right to privacy at airports is not absolute. 
The right must be balanced against the government and the public's 
legitimate interest in safety when privacy-intrusive measures significantly 
promote security. But, we need not even reach that difficult balancing in 
this case, for there is simply no objective basis to believe that 
implementation of facial recognition technology at Fresno Yosemite will 
enhance the security of the air-traveling public in any meaningful way. 
Instead, its use will create a false sense of security while severely 
eroding fundamental privacy rights and likely increasing the harassment of 
innocent people based solely on their ethnic appearance.

For all of the reasons in this letter, we strongly urge Fresno Yosemite 
International Airport to reconsider its decision to employ facial 
recognition technology on a trial basis, and to put on hold any efforts to 
implement the technology on a permanent basis.

Thank you for your consideration of our views. Should you have additional 
questions or concerns, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you 
and other appropriate officials so that we can present our views on facial 
recognition technology in more detail.


Jayashri Srikantiah
ACLU of Northern California

Barry Steinhardt
American Civil Liberties Union


[Below excerpted from BIOMETRIC WEEKLY, an industry trade pub. --DBM]


*** Digital Descriptor Systems, Inc. Announces New Fingerprint System

      Digital Descriptor Systems, Inc., a designer and marketer of
      digitized imaging systems and biometric identification solutions
      for the criminal justice and security markets, announced the first
      non-criminal justice market sale of its new Fingerprint Matching
      System (FMS) the only fully scaleable fingerprint identification
      system in the world designed to take full advantage of the
      Windows(r) NT/2000 environment.

*** Vegas Hotel Caters to Younger Crowd With Biometrics

      The only new resort to open in Las Vegas this year, the Palms
      hotel-casino thinks a younger, smaller approach will mean success
      in a tough tourist economy. With the help of the architect who
      designed the upscale Bellagio hotel-casino, the Palms incorporates
      a variety of woods and water effects to create a chic atmosphere of
      comfort. The 455-room, $265 million resort is just west of the Las
      Vegas Strip across from the Rio hotel-casino. For $3,000 a year and
      a thumbprint - a biometric thumbprint scanner is used to access the
      private elevator - members watch the crowd below or rent one of six
      sky boxes with private balconies to take in a concert.

*** Visionics' FaceIt Two U.S. International Airports

      Visionics Corporation (Nasdaq:VSNX) announced that it will begin
      installation of its FaceIt(R) ARGUS system at two U.S.
      international airports, including the first U.S. Category X
      airport. For security reasons, both airports remain unnamed until
      installation is completed, which is expected to be by the end of
      December. (Category X refers to the FAA designation for the top
      twenty international airports in the United States based on
      passenger traffic, complexity, and other special considerations.)

*** Precise Biometrics To Get World's Largest Order in its Industry

      Precise Biometrics has received an order equal to more than half of
      the last quarter's sales. It is an order of 1000 fingerprint
      readers, which will be used for IT security. The order also covers
      a license package of about 10,000 licenses. The licenses may result
      in sales of a comparable number of fingerprint readers.

*** EDS Launches Security Offerings for Airlines, Airports

      Building on its position as the leading provider of global IT
      infrastructure services to the airline industry, EDS (NYSE: EDS)
      unveiled a comprehensive suite of digital security offerings for
      airlines and airports around the world -- delivering the aviation
      industry its first proven and fully integrated approach to
      security. The security offerings unite smart card and biometric
      technologies, complex data management capabilities and
      industry-specific solutions to clients around the world.

    Smart Cards

*** U.S. Army and SCM Microsystems Smart Card Readers

      SCM Microsystems, Inc. a provider of solutions that open the
      Digital World, and Logicon, a Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) company,
      announced they are working together to supply smart card readers to
      the U.S. Army. To date, 50,000 SCM readers have been delivered as
      part of the initial deployment.

*** SCM Microsystems & AuthenTec Announce Partnership

      SCM Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SCMM, Neuer Markt: SMY), a provider
      of solutions that open the Digital World and AuthenTec, Inc., a
      provider of advanced biometric semiconductor technology, announced
      a partnership to develop readers incorporating biometrics, a market
      predicted to reach $1.9 billion by 20051. SCM will deliver to
      businesses a single solution based on smart card technology,
      requiring fingerprint identification to provide high-level security
      for laptop computers.


*** Fingerprint Verification Competition From FVC2000 organizers

      Academic Research Groups and Companies are invited to register and
      submit algorithms to FVC2002. ANONYMOUS participation is possible.
      Please visit the FVC2002 WEB SITE
      (http://bias.csr.unibo.it/fvc2002/) where you can find CALL FOR
      Participation, DEADLINES, REGISTRATION FORM, and all the other
      relevant info.

*** "An Introduction to Biometrics" by Endorse Systems Limited

      ESL is hosting 3 one-day training seminars which will provide
      delegates with an insight into the various biometric technologies,
      show how they can be utilized in key applications and how the
      technology can create real business opportunities.

      The cost per delegate is 350 + VAT. Seminars will be held at: -
      Endorse Systems Ltd, Trinity House, 41 Billing Road, Northampton,
      NN1 5BA, UK on the following dates: - December 4, 2001 March 12,

      To book e-mail; Debbie.atkins@endorsesystems.com For further
      information, please http://www.endorsesystems.com

*** Successful Strategies for Rolling Out Biometric Technologies Dec. 6-7

      December 6-7, 2001 at the Double Tree Guest Suites Hotel in New
      York City. Successful Strategies for Rolling Out Biometric
      Technologies will provide you with the evaluations, experiences,
      and cutting edge issues involving implementing biometrics for your
      business. Join us as the experts and end-users of biometrics
      discuss invaluable strategies, key lessons learned, and case
      studies of successful biometrics development and implementation.
      For detailed information, including registration or brochure
      requests, please go to the conference website at
      http://www.srinstitute.com/cm368 or contact the organizer at

*** Aviation Security Seminar Set for Feb. 4-5.2002

      The Advanced Learning Institute announced scheduling of a 2-day
      conference focusing on airport and airline security issues. The
      conference is set for February 4-5, 2002 in Washington DC. Mark
      your calendars. Information details to follow. The Advanced
      Learning Institute just completed its 5th Biometrics Summit this
      past week in Las Vegas. Approximately 80 individuals representing a
      wide range of companies and organizations participated in the


*** States Tightening License Rules

      Several states are changing the rules for obtaining drivers'
      licenses, particularly for foreign nationals, as a result of the
      Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Before the attacks, the nation's main
      form of identification was issued according to loosely enforced
      standards set by each state. Law enforcement officials say the 19
      terror hijackers used drivers' licenses to open bank accounts and
      rent cars and apartments. Now, Florida, North Carolina, Michigan
      and others are tightening regulations, and some are considering new
      licenses that would include biometric data such as fingerprints or
      retinal patterns.

*** DynCorp Signs Memorandum of Agreement with AcSys Biometrics

      Nexus Group International Inc. (NXS:TSE) announced that DynCorp
      International LLC, a Fort Worth, Texas-based unit of DynCorp - a $2
      billion information technology and outsourcing solutions firm - and
      AcSys Biometrics Corp. have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to
      pursue international development applications including those that
      have been brought to the fore by certain ICAO initiatives.

*** Cambridge Neurodynamics Wins Security Award

      Cambridge Neurodynamics has won its second security award for its
      3D facial recognition product - Tridentity. The Security Excellence
      award for Best Security Innovation 2001 was presented to Grant
      Garner - Business Development Manager, at the SMT awards dinner in
      London last week. This accolade follows the recent award by the
      British Security Industry for Best Access Control of the Year 2001.
      Tridentity is currently being considered for large Airport, Police,
      Voting and Border control projects worldwide.

*** ActivCard Acquires Ankari

      ActivCard (Nasdaq: ACTI / Nasdaq Europe:ACTI), a provider of smart
      card and digital identity provisioning products and technology,
      announced it has acquired American Biometric Company LTD, a
      privately held, Ottawa, Canada-based company doing business as
      Ankari. Ankari's software framework provides organizations with the
      ability to verify user access through the use of any combination of
      passwords, digital certificates, security tokens, smart cards, and
      biometrics. Under the terms of the agreement, ActivCard has
      purchased all outstanding shares and stock options of Ankari for
      US$18 million in cash.

*** Digital Angel Product Launch Scheduled

      Applied Digital Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADSX) announced that its
      wholly owned subsidiary, Digital Angel Corporation, has selected
      Monday, November 26 as its official launch date for Digital
      Angel(TM), the first-ever combination of advanced biosensor
      technology and Web-enabled wireless telecommunications linked to
      Global Positioning (GPS). Initial marketing campaigns will focus on
      South Florida, with its high concentration of favorable demographic

*** SSP Solutions Announces Smart Card Reader with Biometrics

      SSP Solutions Inc. (Nasdaq:SSPX) announced SSP(TM) Biometric 250,
      its smart card reader integrated with fingerprint biometrics.

*** RS2 Introduces New Automated Voice Software

      RS2 Software Group has announced the introduction of new software
      for automatic voice authorization process (AVAM) to provide
      merchants rapid and efficient response to card transaction approval
      request. The new software has been developed in partnership with
      the Hungarian company Geomant, who specialize in automated call
      center and telecom solutions.



From: "Xeni Jardin" <xeni@xeni.net>
To: "Declan McCullagh" <declan@well.com>
Subject: correction:"VA Beach votes to install facecams on streets"
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 07:32:05 -0800

Hi, Declan,

A minor correction to your subject line: the city already had the actual
facecams installed; they've been up for about 8 years. The news here is
that the city decided to add the controversial face-recognition software.

 >From a July, 2001 news item in the local VA beach paper:

"The Beach has used closed-circuit TV cameras to watch the Oceanfront from
the 2nd Police Precinct since 1993, largely for checking traffic and
observing crowds. Under the new system, the 10 cameras would feed images
of people as they strolled along the Oceanfront to monitors, where the
software would sort faces against a database of mugshots, looking for a
match, "

Following is a story that this same newspaper ran today with more detail,
and a second story on a public debate in October that preceded the
software's approval, which included this quote:

"One panelist, John D. Woodward Jr., senior policy analyst at the RAND
Corp. think tank, argued that there is no expectation of privacy in a
public place, and therefore the software could not invade it."

Heavens. Apparently all those upskirt-wireless-voyeur-cam perverts can now
party on with impunity if that logic holds, as long as they hang out in
"public places."


Beach approves face-matching software
By AGNES BLUM, The Virginian-Pilot
 November 14, 2001

VIRGINIA BEACH - The City Council on Tuesday night approved the
installation of facial-recognition software at the Oceanfront, making
Virginia Beach the second city in the nation to use the technology.

When she heard the proposal this summer, Mayor Meyera E. Oberndorf had
expressed skepticism both about the software's ability to work and whether
it might invade people's privacy.

  But at Tuesday's meeting, the mayor said the events of Sept. 11, and the
news that two of the hijackers had been in the area made her change her


From: "Xeni Jardin" <xeni@xeni.net>
To: "Declan McCullagh" <declan@well.com>
Subject: Reuters on ACLU Fresno facecam faceoff
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 22:10:18 -0800
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal

LAT and NPR also covered the ACLU letter today... but to Ms. Abreu's
credit, the Reuters report delves more into the technology's

-----Original Message-----
From: Xeni Jardin [mailto:xeni@xeni.net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2001 10:08 PM
To: talk@strangelove.cc


Tuesday November 20 7:13 PM ET

ACLU Challenges Face Scanning at California Airport
By Elinor Mills Abreu

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - As airports around the country scramble to
install new security measures after the Sept. 11 attacks, a leading
civil rights group is warning that passengers are now in danger of
machines mistaking them for terrorists.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday asked an airport in
northern California pioneering the use of facial recognition technology
to stop scanning passenger faces in a hunt for possible terrorists.


POLITECH -- Declan McCullagh's politics and technology mailing list
You may redistribute this message freely if you include this notice.
Declan McCullagh's photographs are at http://www.mccullagh.org/
To subscribe to Politech: http://www.politechbot.com/info/subscribe.html
This message is archived at http://www.politechbot.com/

Enter your email address to join Politech, Declan McCullagh's moderated technology and politics announcement list:

Return to politechbot.com