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Face recognition kit fails in Fla airport

How about fifty false positives a day?

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Palm Beach International Airport security workers would be racking up heaps of overtime pay dealing with more than fifty false positives daily if their bosses were to install Visionics' terror-busting face recognition gear, the airport administrators have concluded.

The kit had been installed free of charge for a trial run during which the airport, not surprisingly, decided to test it on volunteers who work there over four weeks' time. Using fifteen volunteers and a data base of 250 snapshots, Palm Beach County administrators enjoyed a success rate of less than fifty per cent. That is, more than half the people the system should have flagged slipped past undetected.

The rate of false positives was also discouraging. The tests indicate that over fifty people would be falsely pegged at a security checkpoint handling five thousand passengers per day. The rate was approximately two to three false alarms per hour per checkpoint. We hardly need elaborate on the mayhem which would result from a gizmo that finds a terrorist every twenty minutes. It would be impossible to get a single plane off the ground in such circumstances.

Eyeglasses gave the system a great deal of difficulty, in spite of copious Visionics marketing hype denying this particular glitch. Small rotations of the head, fifteen to thirty degrees off the camera's focal point, also bamboozled it repeatedly, and the lighting had to be just right.

The ACLU obtained a copy of the Palm Beach report and has posted it here.

Meanwhile, the airport has since announced that it won't be adopting the Visionics handy terrorist catcher after all. ®

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