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Crime Technology

Fugitive Child Sex Abuser Caught By Face-Recognition Technology 232

mrspoonsi sends this BBC report: "A U.S. juggler facing child sex abuse charges, who jumped bail 14 years ago, has been arrested in Nepal after the use of facial-recognition technology. Street performer Neil Stammer traveled to Nepal eight years ago using a fake passport under the name Kevin Hodges. New facial-recognition software matched his passport picture with a wanted poster the FBI released in January. Mr Stammer, who had owned a magic shop in New Mexico, has now been returned to the U.S. state to face trial. The Diplomatic Security Service, which protects U.S. embassies and checks the validity of U.S. visas and passports, had been using FBI wanted posters to test the facial-recognition software, designed to uncover passport fraud. The FBI has been developing its own facial-recognition database as part of the bureau's Next Generation Identification program."
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Fugitive Child Sex Abuser Caught By Face-Recognition Technology

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  • It's tinfoil time! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:30PM (#47666895)

    There's been a lot of 1984-esque technology stories of late, each of which has been tied to catching a child predator.

    The tinfoil crowd sees this as how "the man" intends to deliver all of these intrusions to us -- by showing how they stop kid touchers.

    Me? Meh. Neat that we're cross-referencing FBI wanted posters against passports. Seems a good use of the technology -- better than tagging people on Facebook automatically, I guess.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kenja ( 541830 )
      I would think such systems would automatically flag people in tinfoil protector beanies for closer scrutiny...
      • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:44PM (#47667379) Journal
        I know of several people who were dismissed as tinfoil hatters prior to the Snowden revelations.

        just saying.

        Facial recognition programs on 300 and umpteen million folks(Your Metrics May Vary), to rightfully monitor 10,000 with legitimate probable cause? I'd rather be free than that safe.

        • by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @08:18PM (#47667569)

          Police, I suppose should wander the streets with blindfolds on, only removing them if they get within 20 yards of an out-of-bounds ankle bracelet or a ringing alarm. :/

          If you add "automation' to existing processes, freedom isn't necessarily lost.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
            Your point is not without merit. Law enforcement is a sometimes thankless, dirty, ugly job that pays far too little for a vocation in which other folks shoot at you.

            OTOH, I assure you the people enforcing the laws already have many, many electronic surveillance tools already at their disposal.

            Do those with access to sensitive information routinely abuse that privilege? I would say the evidence is pointing in that direction.

          • There are a limited number of police officers, and they are human beings so at least in theory can't easily be ordered to break the law or do unethical things. An automated face recognition system can be cheaply deployed almost everywhere, and can be used for nefarious purposes simply by adding the faces of a few people the authorities don't like to the list of suspects. "Sorry, false positive" is going to become a new way to harass innocent people that those with authority don't like.

            The system will also be abused for data collection, if it isn't already. Used to be that they only had a record of people actually going through the border checkpoints, but now they can just sprinkle cameras around the general area and see who accompanied them. Cops can't identify everyone they see, but a computer can. Even if it doesn't have a name, it can create a record and spot when the same person visits another place with facial recognition. The NSA already scans the internet for public photos to build a database of known faces.

            Privacy and freedom are most definitely lost.

          • If you enable perfect surveillance, then the result - "police without blindfolds", as well as employers, potential employers, competitors, secret national police, secret and not-secret corporate police (ever wonder about how Apple's security forces seem to have worldwide power and mobility?), marketers, your neighbors, your family, friends, enemies, and Scientology's and Moonies' covert operations getting their "blindfolds" removed - will be a world where everyone is a criminal, and the only recourse you ha

        • by c6gunner ( 950153 ) on Thursday August 14, 2014 @01:20AM (#47668729)

          I know of several people who were dismissed as tinfoil hatters prior to the Snowden revelations.

          I strongly suspect that those people can still be safely dismissed as tinfoil hat wearers. When you spit out a hundred different conspiracy theories every day, one of them is bound to be right eventually. That's the magic of probability and large numbers.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by rmdingler ( 1955220 )

            Some of these people were being improperly classified as conspiracy theorists.

            I am aware there are some who see conspiracy at every turn, as if no event on the radar could simply be happenstance. Shit does just happen, sometimes.

            But, there were many who read Orwell and were convinced government would eventually devolve to this. Whatever they used to be called, it can now be said they appear prophetic.

            • But, there were many who read Orwell and were convinced government would eventually devolve to this.

              Yeah; the dumb kids sitting at the back of the class eating their crayons, who didn't realize Orwell was referring to communist regimes which already existed at the time. In other words, the same idiots who make up the majority of the various Conspiracy Theory movements today.

          • by Shortguy881 ( 2883333 ) on Thursday August 14, 2014 @10:05AM (#47670233)
            Hmm let me try:

            People are listening to all our internet traffic - Cisco router back doors
            All our online searches and emails are filtered for "illegal content" - Google turns over suspicious emails to government officials
            Our cell phones record all our conversations - all cell companies have huge data stores of every phone call made for at least the last decade
            Toll cameras track our movements by license plate - Shown to be true via the state of new york
            Our cell phones are used to track our location - Federal government has put out several notices to local law enforcement to deny such claims
            Facebook turns over all personal data to law enforcement - These reports are just scarily detailed
            Our cars monitor our movements - onstar
            The government is building a huge database of potential troublemakers, "terrorists," and including all their friends and relatives on that same list by association - NSA
            Facial recognition is monitoring our every movement through controlled areas - see this article

            I must be f*ing nuts
            • After 2015 or so, Federal law will require integrated tracking devices and radio network integration into all cars. They tried passing that law last year, and backed down - but they will slip it back in when no one is looking. I imagine motorcycles, Elios, and anything that moves will be included, excepting bicycles... and don't bet they won't get around to bikes.
              As I said a decade ago here: open-air prison. The point to power is power. No reason is necessary; people who want power over other people will gr

        • Most of the ones who were dismissed as such probably still are. Usually those types of people listen to Alex Jones. And you know what? They're still equally nutty and in some cases downright silly. Examples of such silliness: They believe IPv6 is a Cisco plot in tandem with the Illuminati and/or the NWO to take over the world. Yeah you read that right; and you can't make this shit up:

          http://forum.prisonplanet.com/... [prisonplanet.com]

          Here's an actual quote from the website:

          As I said in an earlier post, I like how hardcore and bold the NWO is. A teeny fraction of the world's internet users use IPv6, and Cisco and the other globalist cyber false-flagger corporations believe all of the world's sheeple will just ease into the new global cattle pen with no resistance.

          IPv6 must be resisted.

          I like how these guys use a bunch of tiny truths to

        • Also, remember that this is an arms race. A few more similar cases and press coverage, and those people you target will know that a false identity only works if it comes with plastic surgery. And: whatever benefits they say face recognition has, they are dwarfed by the potential abuses. But we don't talk about those, we're busy thinking of the children, while trying not to think too hard of the children, because that would put us in a different camp.
    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:53PM (#47667051)

      What we really need - but will never have - is some sort of independent civilian oversight group designed to make sure these sorts of programs operate within some specific narrow parameters - with effective enforcement power.

      Looking for passport fraud? Go ahead and look through all the passport pictures... as long as you immediately discard every single one that doesn't match.

      Looking for a stolen car? Go ahead and use that vehicle-mounted license plate scanner... But you can't store any of the non-matching plates for even a second.

      • by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:24PM (#47667261) Homepage

        What we really need - but will never have - is some sort of independent civilian oversight group designed to make sure these sorts of programs operate within some specific narrow parameters

        That's what the Judicial Branch is supposed to do. We don't need an entirely new structure. We just need better execution from them.

        • by wiredog ( 43288 )

          Or Congress, which has oversight authority.

    • by crioca ( 1394491 )
      I think using this technology in this context is a net negative as it's eventually going to be used against activists, whistle blowers and other individuals that are insufficiently patriotic, not to mention the potential for abuse and hacking.

      Does that make me a tinfoil hat wearer?

  • by fred911 ( 83970 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:31PM (#47666901)

    Definition: they've been using it for 5 years.

  • Where? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If you can't hide in Nepal, where can you hide?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your mother's basement... Just never go out and never let your picture be taken..

    • Re:Where? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:13PM (#47667807)

      The idea of a police-state is that you cannot hide. Sure, for really bad crimes, it is fine for the state to throw a lot of resources at it, bit what they did here is cheap and can be applied universally. That the index case seems to be somebody carefully selected so that nobody has any sympathy is just a propaganda trick. I bet they had at the very least several hundred hits.

      And if you think a police-state is not so bad, after all it just mercilessly enforces the rule of law, here is news for you: 1. "The law" and morality, ethics and what is right are two different things. For example, the killing of the Jews in the 3rd Reich was legal. 2. A police state is universally followed by totalitarianism, because at some point all opposition can be silenced legally.

      • See: Panopticon [wikipedia.org]

    • If you can't hide in Nepal, where can you hide?

      There are maybe 3,000 expats living in Nepal. Living in Nepal - What it's like after 1.5 years [visitnepal.com]

      The odd man out is one of the oldest stereotypes of police work. Living on the run? Forget the flight to Kathmandu. Take the bus to New York City.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:34PM (#47666923)

    Scanning travel documents for hits in criminal (or other databases) is yet another case of data being re-purposed for uses other than the original intent. It is the same problem I have with things like Visa selling lists of what people pay for [wsj.com] using a Visa card, Verizon selling a list of what addresses I travel to and what websites I browse [latimes.com] and my pharmacy selling my prescription information. [nytimes.com]
    Repurposing of data for unrelated uses is deeply corrosive to the trust that society needs to function. It keeps us all metaphorically looking over our shoulders, wondering in the back of our heads just how this information generated by going about our normal every-day lives might end up harming us. Even if one in a million times it helps catch a pedo, that still doesn't justify the damage it does to a free society.
    There will always be crime, even in the most authoritarian of countries. But copious amounts of dignity and privacy are necessary for a healthy society - when you constantly have to second guess yourself it makes you less willing to be open and honest with others, makes you less willing to take risks, to be unconventional. Just compare the amount of creative development in the west to that of the USSR in the same time frame, or even North Korea now. Every time a database is repurposed, our society gets a little bit less robust.

    • by jklovanc ( 1603149 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:50PM (#47667029)

      I don't think using facial recognition to verify the identity of someone using a US passport is re purposing data.

      Even if one in a million times it helps catch a pedo, that still doesn't justify the damage it does to a free society.

      How will these identity verifications damage a free society? The will definitely impact passport fraud.

    • Scanning travel documents for hits in criminal (or other databases) is yet another case of data being re-purposed for uses other than the original intent.

      Your passport is proof of your identity, citizenship and right to travel outside your own borders. It has always been subject to verification through whatever means are available.

      In its beginnings, a passport was a formal letter of introduction to your hosts and in the strongest possible language spoke of the legitimacy of your mission, your good faith and common sense. To be signed by someone highly placed and credible.

    • Note that the FBI is not scanning the set of passport photos for hits in a criminal database. In fact, in this case the FBI is not doing any scanning at all.

      In this case, the State Department was scanning passport photos for hits in publicly available identity information, since passports are identity information and are expected to correctly match your identity. It just so happens that the State Department found a hit against a differen identity that was also that of a wanted criminal and that the identiti

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:43PM (#47666985)

    Was for juggling balls before they dropped

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:45PM (#47666995)
    Plot Twist: Kevin Hodges isn't the guy. He just looks like him. Oh well, he's going to prison for life for looking like a child predator. (Hopefully there are safeguards against this.)
  • Now if we can just catch fugitive child rapist Roman Polanski, who was convicted of his heinous crimes but fled the country before sentencing.

  • by The Raven ( 30575 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @07:35PM (#47667317) Homepage

    What frustrates and upsets me is that before Snowden, I would have looked at this as a fluff piece about technology, with some mild nagging doubts about how it could be misused.

    Now I see them as NSA whitewashing propaganda, with mild nagging doubts that maybe the original poster had no agenda and it really is a tech fluff article.

  • Are they saying US has no central database of all valid passports and the only way to uncover fake one is comparing some photos?

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @08:23PM (#47667603)

    Are we on the path to a world were even our state of mind [wikipedia.org] will be on trial?

    • Only if they start labeling personality characteristics as mental defects. I mean, it's not like they have any syndromes that describe geeks, right?

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:06PM (#47667783)

    If they trot out the child abusers (usually carefully selected so that nobody has any sympathy), what is actually announced is really bad for individual freedoms. Expect this to be used against you on a traffic ticket in 5-10 years or to identify people participating in lawful demonstrations. That is a sure way to a police-state and that one is universally followed by totalitarianism some time later.

    • by Jhon ( 241832 )

      Honest question:

      What's the difference with a criminal walking in public and being identified by some person who notifies the authorities VS. a criminal walking in public and being identified by a camera using face recognition software which notifies the authorities?

      There are no cameras in our homes watching us. There are no cameras in the bathroom watching us. No cameras where there's a reasonable expectation of privacy...

      I just don't get the argument that a camera scanning my face in public is the "gover

  • by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:47PM (#47667941)

    Now I dont know the whole story, or frankly any of it, but if he was not tried he is not convicted

    but who cares big brother caught a pedo, rejoice and go to sleep!

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly