Since 9/11 there have been a ton of ideas for applying technology to catch terrorists, and one of the most promising suggestions has been to use facial recognition software. In theory, a computer could watch a live video feed of people milling around an airport and run the faces through a database of known terrorists. In theory.
In practice, the technology is far from mature. Anyone who has used voice recognition software knows that 95% accuracy is just about the best you can do. Optical-character recognition software can scan typed paper documents and convert them to text files with 99% accuracy or even a bit better. In either case, a few percentage points of error can be incredibly tedious to rectify, but imagine a terrorist detection system that was only 99% accurate. Thousands of people pass through Los Angeles International Airport every day, and if even one-tenth of one percent of them got flagged as potential terrorists there'd be an outcry from the public -- especially since most of those flagged would be young Arab males. (And the real error rate would be much higher.)
It's no surprise that at least one of the software developers who jumped onto the post-9/11 homeland security bandwagon is being prosecuted for fraud.
A man who told investors he was developing a face recognition system following the 2001 terrorist attacks has been arrested on fraud charges, investigators said Monday.There was (and is) a lot of money to be made off government security contracts, and the government employees who manage the projects aren't always technologically savvy. I'm glad this guy got caught, but I bet many more bogus proposals slipped through. Still, maybe Jim Wightman should take note.
Ross Rojek, 36, of Sacramento, was charged with wire and mail fraud for his operation of Face Information Technology, known as Face IT, the FBI (news - web sites) said. He also apparently operated American Equity Group LLC under the alias of Jason Williams, the FBI alleged in an affidavit made public Monday.
While Rojek purportedly told investors he was developing a system that would automatically match distinct facial features to a database, "it doesn't seem to be anything he was seriously working on," said Karen Twomey Ernst, an FBI spokeswoman.