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The Military

US Military Seeks Non-Cooperative Biometric Tracking Technology 98

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the i'm-watching-all-the-time dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Interesting article on the upcoming efforts of the Department of Defense biometric capabilities and the ability to non-cooperatively tag, track, and locate individuals from a variety of military UAV platforms. Quoting Wired: "[The] Army just handed out a half-dozen contracts to firms to find faces from above, track targets, and even spot 'adversarial intent.' 'If this works out, we'll have the ability to track people persistently across wide areas', says Dr. Tim Faltemier, the lead biometrics researcher at Progeny Systems Corporation, which recently won one of the Army contracts. 'A guy can go under a bridge or inside a house. But when he comes out, we'll know it was the same guy that went in.'"
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US Military Seeks Non-Cooperative Biometric Tracking Technology

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  • It's really scary!
    Sounds like tortures or unlawful inspection.

  • by Antisyzygy (1495469) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:06PM (#37541802)
    I worked on a facial recognition biometrics project in grad school as a research assistant, the leading platform we found to compete against was Pitt-patt and even it wasn't suitable for this application. This research area is flooded with research, and most people are not taking ground-breaking steps.
    • Facial recognition is a difficult problem. Not just technically either. Too many people want this too much. They also don't appreciate all the difficulties. They're plums ripe for being taken in by scams.

      Something I've come to appreciate is that comparisons are relatively easy. It's the representation that's the killer. Pixels are a completely brain dead way to represent an image. Very easy to do, but not useful for the kinds of comparisons needed for facial recognition.

      Then there's the matter of

      • I attended an interesting seminar about this, but I can't for the life of me remember who presented the material. It was essentially outlining the problem with "pixel-based" methods, since human beings and other animals don't even do this. It just happens to be the easiest way to get a machine to do things. The individual argued that pixel-based methods essentially have reached their limitations, and was instead arguing on more of an approach based on human perception through neurological research that I di
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:10PM (#37541842)
    'A guy can go under a bridge or inside a house. But when he comes out, we'll know it was the same guy that went in.'

    I guess until they all just wear mask... Got to love multi-billion dollar systems that get defeated by a $3 piece of clothing.
    • by DrData99 (916924)

      All wearing the same mask? That sure would be stealthy and make it easy to blend into a crowd!

    • Yeah.... having a bunch of people wearing the same mask would be a wonderful way to blend in with the natives and make it difficult to figure out who you are and who you are associated with....

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      A face is only one way to identify someone- one which humans use extensively. But not the only one. The way you walk, the way you hold yourself, your body size and shape, your voice, and a host of other attributes are all fairly unique, when you look closely enough. Combining a group of them makes it even more powerful.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Although TFS specifically mentions faces, they could get trickier than just face recognition, e.g. gait analysis, etc. But those are easy to defeat too, possibly as simply as putting a rock in your shoe. (See Cory Doctorow's Little Brother.)

      But if the thing's in an overhead UAV, a hat with a big floppy brim might work just as well as a mask. Or they could wear burkas.

    • by PPH (736903)

      I guess until they all just wear mask...

      http://img219.imageshack.us/img219/259/1202666100024xy5.jpg [imageshack.us]

      • by Anonymous Coward

        http://www.google.com/search?q=burqa

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Didn't you read Sherlock Holmes ?

      It is not to track the face... it is to track the hands! They never change the hands....

    • by AJH16 (940784)

      That also assumes other bio-metrics such as height, build, gait, etc are not analyzed to determine if the person is the same. There are more to biometrics than simply recognizing a face.

      • by radtea (464814)

        That also assumes other bio-metrics such as height, build, gait, etc are not analyzed to determine if the person is the same.

        None of which can be defeated by anything as simple as a mask, like wearing a fat suit and/or platform shoes...

        That said, I've done a lot of work in various pattern analysis applications and have to wonder if it isn't my moral duty to separate the security-industrial complex from some of the American taxpayer's money...

    • This is a line of thinking that would declare bullets to be useless in modern combat because they could be defeated by a scrap of metal.
    • Unless they do skeletal tracking and can tell by your gait who you are.

      And at least criminals would have to change clothing every 10 minutes to evade detection. And if you see someone walking down the street with a mask on... time for a friendly close inspection on foot.

      Expect a lot of soldiers to pay double attention to anyone wearing a mask.

    • In other news, sales of wigs, false beards, hats, and makeup soared for completely unknown reasons. Not to mention sales of pirate outfits and stuffed parrots,
    • Problem: it is now illegal to wear a mask in public in some durisdictions. So it is either pay now, or pay later.
  • Scary question: at what level of certainty do they let the guy piloting the UAV push hellfire missile button based on this platform's "identification" of an enemy?
    • Scary question: at what level of certainty do they let the guy piloting the UAV push hellfire missile button based on this platform's "identification" of an enemy?

      I think the idea of this is "higher then currently employed". For example, an analyst tracking a target that walks under a bridge and out the other side might be confident enough to give the go-ahead but assisted by a software bio-metrics package the analyst can be warned that based on height calculations the guy that just came out on the other side of the bridge isn't the target being tracked unless he just grew 3 inches.

  • Trust us (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:19PM (#37541978)

    It's for military combat only. We'd never use it on our own people*

    * unless those people are assembled in mass numbers representing a potential for threatening movement or when regarded by law enforcement as a public safety concern or causing a public disturbance.

    • Re:Trust us (Score:5, Insightful)

      by durrr (1316311) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:32PM (#37542150)
      No special clause, the military will use it only for military purpose, but given that police are already begging for(and getting) UAVs of their own and the contractors that develop the tech are profit driven it will take approximately 20 minutes before you find it in use against the local populance everywhere.
      • by Gilmoure (18428)

        Wall Street Protests?

      • but given that police are already begging for(and getting) UAVs of their own.

        We don't need any exotic new scenarios to be sure it will be used against us; a hundred years ago the National Guard made it clear by turning machine guns on striking workers. They'll never shy away from violence, whether it's overseas or right here at home. Anything to keep the profits coming and above all, the system intact.
        Once they feel threatened, it only takes a minute for them to show their true face.

        • by dkleinsc (563838)

          a hundred years ago the National Guard made it clear by turning machine guns on striking workers

          And 41 years ago, they turned the guns on unarmed students.

          If you consider non-lethal weapons, then you can look at the videos earlier this week of police pepper-spraying people for the crime of standing on the sidewalk looking like a protester.

        • My other post got deleted...but I will continue in my same "negative" stance. This is a technology that treats humans as targets, and some regimes around the world, every citizen is a potential target. Target for what? Here in Canada or the US it might be a day in prison but in other countries where US military technology has been exported it will be used for nefarious purposes. In other countries, and there are lots of them, the technology will be used for other purposes. And I am including cell-phone m
    • The British police are already using photographs and videos taken during the 2011 London riots to identify suspects. I don't really have a problem with that in this particular case; it seems to me that you don't have any sort of right to anonymity if you're in a public place, rioting and looting.

      But the potential for abuse of this technology is just chilling. It can be used to identify rioters... but to a repressive regime, people assembling in public to protest the regime would be classified as "rioters".

    • by 0xG (712423)

      SSDD.
      First it will be used on "the enemy".
      Then on "dangerous criminals".
      Then on "senior citizens, children, and others at risk". For their own good, of course.
      Then...

  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:28PM (#37542102)
    When it comes to the military industrial complex, there is never enough money that can be dumped down the hole.

    And from the right-wing lovers of the constitution, and haters of government spending: Complete silent obedience.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by frosty_tsm (933163)

      When it comes to the military industrial complex, there is never enough money that can be dumped down the hole. And from the right-wing lovers of the constitution, and haters of government spending: Complete silent obedience.

      Sad but true. "Keep the government out of our medicare." "Don't tax the job creators."

      But any time something is spun towards the big bad terrorists, they'll be silent when we dump billions to accomplish nothing and even bend over and spread them (literally).

  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @01:14PM (#37542932)

    They use a pagerank like algorithm to analyze the person's social network (links in an out) and the person's actions (page content) and then compute a "TerrorScore" much like a google "Page Rank". They then knock these guys off one by one with UAVs. The whole thing runs unattended. Nobody knows exactly why people get killed, that's just the algorithm. They can't turn it off either unfortunately, because then the terrorists would win! Quick, somebody write a screenplay :).

  • A programming glitch swaps the 'Dangerous/Auto Kill' tags in the hunter/killer drone targeting databases using these technologies with the 'Officers/Senators' ones.

    Technology, making more high tech ways for idiots on your side to kill you.

  • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @01:59PM (#37543778) Homepage

    I've been thinking about just sticking some cameras on my property and creating a database of every face they see and when, and every license plate that drives by.

    I figure everybody else is doing it, so why not private individuals.

    Post it all in one big free database online, and now everybody knows where everybody lives and works and what they're doing. Maybe the solution to privacy is for nobody to have it. Since, right now the only thing I can be sure of is that ordinary people don't have it. Equality would keep everybody more honest. Social norms/etc would just have to change.

    • This is actually the plot behind the pilot of Aeon Flux. The story takes place in Bregna, a country recently taken over in a coup and turned into an authoritarian society where everyone is under constant observation, including the power elites. Of course, the leaders and the resistance both find ways of avoiding the monitoring to advance their agendas.
  • That reminds me of a Watchbird by Robert Sheckley - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/29579 [gutenberg.org]
  • Can we start with tracking you and your family first? If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, right?
  • ....and even spot 'adversarial intent....

    Two Iraqi farmers minding their own business :

    • - Abdul, Abdul, look there's a f*ing drone up there again, watching us.
    • - Damm drones... they have no right to be here.

    KABBOOOOM! Flying crops, cows, and Iraqi farmers' body parts.

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