FBI Photo Recognition: Mixed Views

January 31, 2019

Get used to debates like this in the future: law enforcement agencies develop new technology that helps track criminals more efficiently, but the courts and the public doubt its validity. This is not a new argument, but seems to be entering into a new arena, as we discovered from a recent ProPublica story, “The FBI Says its Photo Analysis is Scientific Evidence—Scientists Disagree.”

The story has several interesting spins:

“FBI examiners have tied defendants to crime pictures in thousands of cases over the past half-century using unproven techniques, at times giving jurors baseless statistics to say the risk of error was vanishingly small. Much of the legal foundation for the unit’s work is rooted in a 22-year-old comparison of bluejeans.”

From bluejeans to facial recognition software, this is the latest frontier for collecting evidence and it is healthy that it is met with skepticism. We are reminded of how fingerprints were disregarded as not being scientific evidence in the 1800s. Over time, thanks to rigorous testing and patience, the world at large began to trust this evidence. We foresee that being the case with photo analysis, once it is able to meet the standards of the scientific community.

Patrick Roland, January 31, 2019


One Response to “FBI Photo Recognition: Mixed Views”

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