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Face recognition useless for crowd surveillance [ 27/09/2001] Smile -- ATM Knows Your Face [2/21/00] Cameras scanned fans for criminals Secret Cameras Scanned Crowd at Super Bowl Cameras seek out, recognize suspects [11/ 98] ACLU: Face-recognition systems won't work =============== Cameras scanned fans for criminals Super Bowl fans had their privacy invaded by the technology, critics say. Law officials cite security. By ROBERT TRIGAUX St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001 TAMPA -- Were you one of the 100,000 fans and workers to pass through the stadium turnstiles at Sunday's Super Bowl? Did you smile for the camera? Each and every face that entered Raymond James Stadium for the big game was captured by a video camera connected to a law enforcement control room inside the stadium. In milliseconds, each facial image was digitized and checked electronically against the computer files of known criminals, terrorists and con artists of the Tampa Police Department, the FBI and other state and local law enforcement agencies. Sunday's Super Bowl was the first major sporting event to adopt the face-matching surveillance system. But the designers of the system expect other security-sensitive sporting events, ranging from the upcoming 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City to the hooligan-plagued soccer leagues in parts of Europe, to express great interest. The point? To gain immediate identification of people who have past ties to illegal activities. Images of individuals captured by the database system are not stored permanently, but could be used on game day if there is criminal activity at the stadium or law enforcement officials see someone wanted for a serious crime. The problem? Most Super Bowl fans had no clue their faces were being checked for matches with criminals. "I find it disturbing," said privacy expert Christine L. Borgman, professor and presidential chair in information studies at the University of California in Los Angeles. "It smacks of Big Brother societies that keep watch over people." Security officials counter that the database system is no more and possibly less intrusive than videotape cameras already in use at convenience stores, shopping malls or schools. In cooperation with the Tampa Sports Authority, the Super Bowl surveillance system was also used this past week at the NFL Experience adjacent to the stadium. The system, which relies on "biometric" technology to recognize faces, continues to be used by the Tampa Police Department in Ybor City, where 22 cameras monitor the entertainment district. Police have used cameras to watch for fights and crime in Ybor for several years, but recently those cameras were linked directly to the police department's own database of mug shots. "Places where large crowds are present, such as sporting events, are tempting targets for all types mischief, criminal behavior and larger threats," said Tom Colatosti, president of Viisage Technology in Littleton, Mass., whose software runs the face-identification system known as "FaceTrac." "The security undertaking for a game like the Super Bowl is extraordinary," he said. "Law enforcement is concerned about potential problems ranging from scalping tickets and pickpockets to aerial anthrax attacks." At Sunday's Super Bowl, any individuals matched with photo files in the database could be questioned or detained by officers of the joint task force who were circulating throughout the stadium complex. Several technology executives said Tuesday that their surveillance system did match a few fan faces with database mugs during the Super Bowl event. However, Tampa Police Department spokesman Joe Durkin said the system did not match any known con artist or terrorist, and there were no resulting arrests. The Police Department's network of cameras operating in Ybor's entertainment district was upgraded and tied to the new face-recognition system "within the last couple of weeks," Durkin said. Is the new surveillance system the latest twist on Big Brother? Face-matching surveillance already is well established at more than 70 casinos. But the system's biggest opportunities lie in more benign functions: Identifying customers at ATMs or participants in welfare programs, and screening people who want to enter secure workplace areas. At Raymond James Stadium, surveillance system cameras were focused only on people entering at turnstiles. No cameras were used inside to pan the fans inside. But cameras did sweep the crowds at the NFL Experience, indicating the growing reach of database systems to try and match faces even in large groups. At UCLA, professor Borgman questioned the technical ability of a system to identify individual faces so quickly. "If these surveillance systems spread, there may be a considerable margin of error in determining the identity of people who get snagged," she said. "And that is a big price to pay for your civil rights." Contact Robert Trigaux at or (727) 893-8405. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Secret Cameras Scanned Crowd at Super Bowl for Criminals Surveillance: Faces were cross-checked by new technology in bid to catch terrorists, other suspects. Privacy concerns are raised. By LOUIS SAHAGUN and JOSH MEYER, Times Staff Writers Unknown to the 100,000 people who passed through the turnstiles at Sunday's Super Bowl, hidden cameras scanned each of their faces and compared the portraits with photos of terrorists and known criminals of every stripe. In a command post at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., the digitized images of fans and workers were cross-checked against files of local police, the FBI and state agencies at the rate of a million images a minute. The cameras identified 19 people with criminal histories, none of them of a "significant" nature, Tampa authorities said. But the undisclosed first test of the technology at a major U.S. sporting event raised arguments about privacy versus security and questions about the future of such spying and its uses. "Oh my God, it's yet another nail in the coffin of personal liberty," said Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technical officer of Counterpane Internet Security Inc., a security monitoring company. "It's another manifestation of a surveillance society, which says we're going to watch you all the time just in case you might do something wrong," said Schneier, whose book "Secrets & Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World" warned of the increasing encroachment on civil liberties in high-tech society. But USC law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, a nationally recognized authority on constitutional law, said the right to privacy doesn't extend to places quite so public. "I'm troubled by the extensive use of cameras to monitor us when we're in public places, but that doesn't mean it's illegal or unconstitutional," Chemerinsky said. "People have no reasonable expectation that when out in public, they cannot be photographed." Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin said the department jumped at the chance to borrow the technology after Graphco Technologies Inc. approached it and allowed it a tryout for free. "It's just another high-tech tool that is available," Durkin said. "We used it for a week to test it, evaluate it and see if we liked it. And yes, we did like it. Very much so." Durkin said the department wanted to screen for pickpockets and other potential scam artists drawn to the huge event and for potential terrorists who wanted to use its worldwide TV and radio audience to make a political statement. "Clearly, the vast majority of citizens would applaud our efforts to make Super Bowl XXXV as safe as we did," he said. "And I'll tell you, had this system identified some known terrorist because of the size of the event and the eyes of the world on Tampa, and the police stopped the terrorist act, the system would have proved priceless." No arrests were made that day. But, Durkin said, "it alerted us that they were there. It confirmed our suspicions that a crowd of this magnitude would attract people trying to take advantage of the situation." Oakland Raiders Senior Assistant Bruce Allen agreed with the need. "Whatever they want to do to protect this country, I'm for. . . . So anything we can do to help, I can't imagine anyone disagreeing with that." Critics warn, however, of the potential for error. "What if I have the same shaped nose as John Dillinger? Am I going to get frisked?" asked Clifford Stoll, author of books questioning the applications of technology and their benefits to society. Although advocates insist such technologies are reliable, he added, "that's what J. Edgar Hoover said when he measured the head shape of criminals to determine the standard appearance of a criminal." Other applications are expected to include ATM machines and public events such as the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The popularity of facial-recognition technology is also spreading in Las Vegas, where a growing number of casinos employ it to identify criminal suspects or unwanted gamblers--including card counters and those listed in the "Black Book" of banned casino guests. But not everyone who enters a casino, where "eye-in-the-sky" surveillance cameras are a long-accepted feature, is automatically photographed, according to the corporate spokesman for three of Las Vegas' largest casinos using the technology. Rather, a person is photographed, and his facial features scanned, only if he is suspected of being a criminal or otherwise unwanted at the casino, said Alan Feldman, vice president of MGM Mirage. What happened at Sunday's Super Bowl, however, signals a revolution in spying technology with possibly grave implications, Schneier said. --- Times staff writers Tom Gorman, Charles Piller, Sam Farmer and researcher Michael Faneuff contributed to this story. Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++