02:01 - Source: CNN
'Electronic sketch artist' fights crime

Story highlights

Soon, you could pay for goods simply by showing your face to a scanner

Government agencies are keen to use the technology, with the stated aim of fighting crime

The FBI will roll out advanced facial recognition technology across the U.S in 2014

Critics warn of the "compromising" risks of giving intimate information away

CNN —  

From fighting terrorism to processing payments in the blink of an eye, facial recognition is set to change our ideas on privacy.

A number of exciting developments in the field could even push its toughest critics to reconsider.

“The more people get out of it, the more they’ll surrender to it,” says Manolo Almagro, senior vice president of digital for TPN Inc. Almagro believes that people will only embrace a technology if the benefits outweigh privacy concerns.

Facial recognition is a computer-based system that automatically identifies a person based on a digital image or video source – which is then matched to information stored in a database.

Often used in fictional TV-series such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, it is soon set to become a real-life tool for fighting crime. In 2014, the FBI will roll the technology out across the U.S. after pilot testing is completed in some states.

Read: “Embracing the police force of the future”

Facial recognition is a key part of the agency’s ambitious $1 billion Next Generation Identification System (NGI) – a state-of-the-art biometric identification system that also includes iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification. The mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activity by improving and expanding biometric identification as well as criminal history information services.

UK-based Dr. Chris Solomon is an advocate for the technology too. A professor at the University of Kent, Solomon has created an “electronic sketch artist” system that has changed how UK police identify criminals. His method is currently used by 90% of British police and in more than 30 countries.

He explains: “The key advantage here is that it allows people to respond to faces they see rather than having to break it down into component parts.”

Credited with helping to solve hundreds of crimes, his facial composite software identifies suspected criminals in a new way. The system, EFIT-V, allows victims and witnesses to select the best and worst matches from a group of computer-generated faces. Based on their responses, the computer eventually “learns” what type of face they are after and displays options accordingly.