Biometrics Used to Detect Criminals at Super Bowl

ByABC News
February 13, 2001, 1:06 PM

T A M P A, Fla., Feb. 13 -- Super Bowl, or Snooper Bowl?

As 100,000 fans stepped through the turnstiles at Super BowlXXXV, a camera snapped their image and matched it against acomputerized police lineup of known criminals, from pickpockets tointernational terrorists.

It's not a new kind of surveillance. But its use at the SuperBowl dubbed "Snooper Bowl" by critics has highlighted adebate about the balance between individual privacy and publicsafety.

Law enforcement officials say what was done at the Super Bowl isno more intrusive than routine video surveillance that most peopleencounter each day as they're filmed in stores, banks, officebuildings or apartment buildings.

But to critics, the addition of the face-recognition system canessentially put everyone in a police lineup.

"I think it presents a whole different picture of America,"said Howard Simon, executive director of the American CivilLiberties Union in Florida.

Biometrics Aid Law Enforcement

The technology, called biometrics, was created at theMassachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1990s and has beenadapted for dozens of uses, from keeping automatic tellers secureto creating driver's license photographs.

It's based on the theory that every person's face is a slightspatial deviation of 128 "standard" faces. A face in a digitalpicture is converted into a numerical code that can be quicklycompared with the faces in a database of thousands. The processtakes just seconds.

The computer is programmed to alert law enforcement when a matchis made, and can flash a high-alert warning if it detects someoneauthorities have identified as particularly dangerous.

Casinos have used the technology to catch known cheats, and asystem such as the one used at the Super Bowl is being tested insome U.S. airports, said Gretchen Lewis, marketing director forViisage Technology, the Littleton, Mass., company that loaned thesystem to Tampa police for the Super Bowl.

The system is marketed under the name Facefinder. Viisage joinedwith Raytheon Co. and Graphco Technologies Inc. to construct theSuper Bowl surveillance system.