Just imagine if facial recognition software was combined with hardware…
The United States Departments of Justice and State, the FBI, the CIA, the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and the NSA are jointly involved in a program to put a billion plus faces into their facial recognition database. First proposed during the first Bush Administration, the project has been delayed by the inability of the software to distinguish individual faces with sufficient accuracy. By sufficient accuracy we mean being able to distinguish individual faces of people from all ethnic groups. The information would be used for targeting by the police and military in real-time applications.
Dramatic strides have, however, been made in facial recognition techniques in the last two years. Sufficient accuracy—1 in 50,000,000—has now been achieved so that the military feels confident that terrorists anywhere in the world can be identified with facial recognition software, and dealt with immediately. This accuracy combined with new generation high-resolution cameras being fitted to sixth-generation drone aircraft, now armed with third-generation sniper-grade laser systems, will be able to target and eliminate individual terrorists throughout the world. This will also limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.
Facial Recognition Software
Tests, currently being conducted in the American Southwest and the Middle East, have proven to the Obama Administration that the facial recognition project (code name: vanDyck) is viable. Facial accuracy goals have been achieved, and indeed exceeded. Drone-carried lasers have recorded “kills” at ranges of 5,000+ meters. Live testing is due to begin in the first quarter of the coming year. If successful, it will become operational by the summer of 2015. Several NATO allies have expressed an interest in vanDyck and discussions are ongoing.
In addition to the above international/military program a domestic version is also in the works (code name: Stuart). Unnamed sources have disclosed that the government has quietly been gleaning state DMV databases for pictures and fingerprints of hundreds of millions of Americans and legal, as well as illegal, US residents. The results have been combined and filtered with military, State Department, criminal and other databases. This will give the federal “Identification Agency” a nigh on complete picture of America. Several months ago this agency began an effort to merge their databases with information from various “social media” sites. Because millions of Americans, and others throughout the world, update their pictures, locations and activities regularly, the agency hopes to be able to find anyone at “need” and even predict criminal behavior.
(FYI: The FBI has an ongoing program monitoring criminal use of these same “social media” sites. Indeed, there are rampant rumors of a “Mafia Spider-bot” which combs social media sites for information which could be used to further criminal activity. Have you posted information about being on vacation, away from home? Oh yeah, your boss also follows what you do on these sites; be careful—don’t call in “sick” for a week when you post pictures of your vacation that same week fifteen hundred miles from home.)
A civilian/police version of the facial recognition database is also in the works. It would give commercial concerns an overwhelming amount of information about individuals and groups. Police and security providers would be able to more quickly identify criminals. High-resolution video cameras now being installed in stores and businesses are to be connected, through local police and security firms, with the new database. This will allow real-time identification of criminals as they commit their crimes and, possibly, prevent these crimes from being committed. Police agencies, which now scan license plates for stolen vehicles, will be able to, through a camera and software upgrade, scan faces in a crowd and arrest, or trail, wanted criminals so identified.
All of the people involved in these facial recognition programs were carefully vetted before being recruited and negative publicity has, therefore, been minimal to non-existent. Although civil libertarians might disagree with some of the aspects of these programs, the government feels that the benefits well outweigh any negative concerns. Among these benefits:
A. Easier identification and arrest of known criminals,
B. Reduction/elimination of terrorist activity,
C. Reduction/elimination of known violent revolutionary movements throughout the world,
(B and C above would help to bring about a more calm and secure world.)
D. Accident victims, without identification, could be identified, treated and have their kin notified almost immediately,
E. Kidnapped children could be identified and returned to their parents quickly, thus eliminating a great deal of emotional trauma for the family,
F. Citizens, registered voters could be identified immediately, eliminating any fear of voter fraud.
Also, of interest here, are two other government programs still in their infancy:
The first (code name: Crick) would mandate DNA samples being taken from all criminals convicted of violent crimes and all non-citizens/legal residents entering the United States. Added to this would be DNA samples which would be volunteered by citizens and legal residents and all minors when they are first registered for school—school pictures would be updated in the facial recognition databases each academic year. In addition samples would be taken from all newborns and the information would be attached to their birth certificates.
The second (code name: Edenthorpe) would require that chips be implanted in newborns and programmed with their identification information. These chips would be able to be scanned for identification purposes just like those now used for cats and dogs and other pets. Piggy-backed onto this program is another (code name: West Cheshire) that would have the implanted chips be active RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tags. Voluntary enrollment for older people would, of course, be welcomed. Major commercial concerns are also interested in this system for banking, advertising and sales without the need to carry identification and credit cards.
If these programs are successful, wide-scale implementation would result in an open society without privacy and identification concerns within a couple of generations and certainly before the turn of the twenty-second century.
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The above is a work of fiction and imagination cobbled together in a couple of hours on a Wednesday afternoon. I know of no government programs which engage in any of the above. vanDyck and Stuart were portrait artists, not code names for government programs; Edenthorp and West Cheshire are UK schools which have, or are, experimenting with RFID technology: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/nov/19/college-rfid-chip-tracking-pupils-invasion-privacy
Like the authors of 1984 and Brave New World, I have just extrapolated from current technology and trends a possibly utopian/dystopian future—depending, of course, on your view of human nature and personal paranoia.