Facial recognition technology has become a hugely controversial subject over the last couple of years, especially when it comes to its use by law enforcement. Many cities have banned their police departments from using such technology, although some government agencies still use it. In fact, the technology playing a major blow in the apprehension of many participants, who declined to wear masks during the pandemic yet participated in the riot at the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Now, there’s a report that the Army is interested in getting in the act of using the technology.
The call came on the Army’s Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR portal, seeking a “Recognition Biometric Camera System.” It was originally published March 31, with the “response date” set for May 18. The question period runs through May 4.
The listed objective is to “design and build a biometric recognition camera system to be integrated with the pre-existing Automated Installation Entry system for deployment at Army installation Access Control Points. The camera system can see through the windshield of approaching vehicles in various weather conditions during the day and nighttime and will also be used to report security alerts.”
The listing elaborates in the “description” section.
“A growing demand for biometric recognition software is driving development of the technology as agencies like TSA employ this capability to automate the identity and boarding pass verification process at their airport checkpoints,” the listing says. “The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) studied the biometric recognition performance of 189 algorithms from 99 different manufacturers and reported varying degrees of performance. Advances in high resolution image cameras and identity analytics software are closing the performance gap with respect to errors encountered in the visual spectrum and illumination changes.”
Under the system, “the results would be displayed to the guard with a photo of the driver indicating an access granted or access denied response in time to allow uninterrupted vehicle traffic flow for approved users.”
There have been violent incidents on U.S. military bases, including the Fort Hood shooting in 2009 and the Pensacola Navy base shooting in 2019.
Some opposition has emerged against the government and law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology for multiple reasons, from concerns about overwhelming surveillance in society to evidence of racial biases in the technology.
“Researchers, as well as civil-liberties advocates and legal scholars, are among those disturbed by facial recognition’s rise,” a November 2020 Nature article about the controversy said. “They are tracking its use, exposing its harms and campaigning for safeguards or outright bans. Part of the work involves exposing the technology’s immaturity: it still has inaccuracies and racial biases. Opponents are also concerned that police and law-enforcement agencies are using FRT in discriminatory ways, and that governments could employ it to repress opposition.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.