ACLU "dismayed" over Fresno facecams; biometric news update
- Date: Wed, 21 Nov 2001 02:08:12 -0500
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: FC: ACLU "dismayed" over Fresno facecams; biometric news update
- From: Declan McCullagh <email@example.com>
Politech facecam archive:
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 19:09:18 -0500
From: " Scully@cipherwar.com" <Scully@cipherwar.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.
ACLU Calls on Fresno Airport to Remove Controversial
Facial Recognition Technology
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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
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
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
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.
ACLU of Northern California
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.
*** 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
*** "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.firstname.lastname@example.org 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
*** 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" <email@example.com>
To: "Declan McCullagh" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: correction:"VA Beach votes to install facecams on streets"
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 07:32:05 -0800
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
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
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" <email@example.com>
To: "Declan McCullagh" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reuters on ACLU Fresno facecam faceoff
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2001 22:10:18 -0800
X-Priority: 3 (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
From: Xeni Jardin [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 20, 2001 10:08 PM
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.
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