A new iPhone accessory that uses facial recognition technology to help police identify suspects is raising new privacy concerns.
The hardware, which can only be fitted to an iPhone, is made by BI2 Technologies of Plymouth, Massachusetts. The device is powered by software called Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System (MORIS) and can match a suspect's fact with his or her photo in a database. Currently, the system's database contains information about inmates in correctional facilities, but doesn't include the FBI's criminal logs or drivers license photos--yet.
The unit has to be held 5 to 6 inches from a subject's face in order for the iris scan to work properly. Once scanned, the system "can identify a person via facial recognition software, or by the color of their eyes, or iris" says MobileBurn.com.
In addition to the technological issues--the device works only with Apple smartphones--MORIS also has privacy implications.
Orin Kerr of the George Washington University Law School is concerned about how the new technology will be used, telling the Wall Street Journal that face- and iris-recognition technology is still “a gray area of the law.”
Facial recognition technology has been highly controversial. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said during an interview at the All Things D conference that to his knowledge, facial recognition technology was "the only technology Google has built and, after looking at it, we decided to stop."
He added, "I'm very concerned personally about the union of mobile tracking and face recognition,"
Each device costs $3,000, and will soon be used by more than 40 law enforcement agencies. Pop Sci writes that a gang unit in Brockton, Massachusetts will "initially" be using the technology, which will "eventually be deployed statewide."
Tell us in the comments below what you think of facial recognition software. Are you concerned about its privacy implications, or do the benefits outweigh the risks?