A View from Erika Jonietz

Face Recognition For Passports Is Error-Prone

Despite warnings that facial-recognition technology is prone to a high rate of error, the U.S. State Department is moving ahead with plans to embed microchips that will allow computer matching of facial characteristics in U.S. passports. Federal researchers, academics, and…

  • August 9, 2004

Despite warnings that facial-recognition technology is prone to a high rate of error, the U.S. State Department is moving ahead with plans to embed microchips that will allow computer matching of facial characteristics in U.S. passports. Federal researchers, academics, and industry experts say the government should use more-reliable fingerprints instead, according to the Washington Post.

Federal researchers who have tested face-recognition technology say its error rate is unacceptably high–up to 50 percent if photographs are taken without proper lighting. Facial recognition has been adopted in part to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization standards, which specify facial recognition as the primary mode of identification on so-called “biometric passports.” U.S. researchers point out that fingerprints, which have a far lower error rate, could be added to the chip without violating the international standard.

The enhanced U.S. passports are scheduled to be issued next spring for people obtaining new or renewed passports.

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