IWS - The Information Warfare Site
News Watch Make a  donation to IWS - The Information Warfare Site Use it for navigation in case java scripts are disabled


STATEMENT
OF
JOANNA LAU
FOUNDER, LAU TECHNOLOGIES and VIISAGE TECHNOLOGY
BEFORE THE
SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON TECHNOLOGY, TERRORISM, AND
GOVERNMENT INFORMATION
ON
BIOMETRIC IDENTIFIERS AND THE MODERN FACE OF TERROR:
NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM
NOVEMBER 14, 2001

MADAME CHAIRWOMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE,
I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify on the important issue of how biometric technology, and specifically facial recognition technology can be used to prevent persons who wish to carry out acts of terrorism from entering the United States.

As the founder and CEO of Lau Technologies I have devoted the last decade to the use of technology to ensure National Defense. This has led us to create our affiliate, VIISAGE Technology to advance the use of facial recognition technology; a technology that I believe has the potential to fill an important role in this Nation’s current border security strategy.

Almost all Americans believe that September 11, 2001 has shown that our borders are not as secure as we once thought that they were. However, it is only by reviewing and changing the current border security measures, as you are doing Madame Chairwoman, that we will be able to move forward and stay abreast with the threats that our nation now faces. We must admit that there is no single answer, or “silver bullet” to solving our border security issues. Those of us in the private sector must be careful about over-promising or exaggerating “ready made solutions.” Clearly, we have tools that can help, one of which I will explain and demonstrate today. Our fellow citizens are demanding better technology and better law enforcement and I am pleased that my company is in a position to contribute. Let me tell you about facial recognition technology.


Background on Facial Recognition Technology

Almost a decade ago, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) pioneered a facial recognition method known as “Eigenfaces”. Using this technique, any facial image taken from still photographs, live or recorded video or composite sketches, can be enrolled into the “Eigenface" system, which then reduces an individual’s face characteristics to 128 coefficients. Once enrolled, and using our algorithm, these images can be compared for possible matches.

Lau Technologies acquired the rights to the MIT technology in 1994. Since that time we have spent millions of dollars and over 100 person-years to build on the original Eiganface algorithm. Today we have 25 patents in place or pending and each face that is compared using our system is subjected to several different algorithms.

From an operational perspective, this software allows law enforcement to compare any face against a digital “mug-shot book” of images in real time to determine if there are possible matches. In the past, it would have taken an indidual hours to manually make this type of comparision with even a few thousand images – In the State of Illinois, we are currenly matching all new driver license applications against a database of 8.4 million existing drivers licenses, to identify fraud and duplicates. Once a search is completed and a gallery is displayed, it is then up to the operator to review the possible matches and determine how to proceed. In this way, facial recogntion technology acts as a powerful force multiplier for investigators.

To date, the technology has been used successfully by Federal, State and local government and the private sector for close to five years. Let me give you several examples:

Pinellas County, Florida - This year with funding provided by Congress, the Pinellas County, FL Sheriff’s Office began implementing facial recognition to assist with jail operations and criminal investigations.

Casino Surveillance – Our technology is currently being used in over 100 casinos worldwide. These establishments have enhanced their existing cameras with our technology to allow security officers to compare visitors against a database of close to 10,000 known cheats. Since then, the system has identified hundreds of unwanted individuals.

Access Control – today, the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration use the technology for access control.

NFL Super Bowl – In cooperation with Federal, State and local law enforcement, our company provided facial recognition technology at last year’s Super Bowl in Tampa, FL. Over 60,000 faces were scanned as they entered the stadium and their pictures were compared to a database that included terrorists, fugitives as well as known scalpers and pickpockets. While no one was arrested, 19 probable matches were made using the software. After each comparison that did not result in a match, the individuals image was immediately destroyed.

State of Illinois – Perhaps one of the most successful applications is the 8.4 million drivers license images that are being scanned everyday for duplicates and fraud, which I described earlier. This is by far the largest facial recognition database in the world.
We recently learned that the U.S. Marshals used the Illinois system to confirm information about one of their 15 Most Wanted Fugitives. Using only facial recognition, the Marshals compared a booking photograph of Daniel Escobedo to the DMV database. Within seconds, Mr. Escabedo’s driver’s license came up first in a database of over 8 million images. The driver’s license confirmed information that the Marshals had recently discovered using more traditional investigative techniques, that helped led to Mr. Escabido’s arrest.

Since September 11th, we have obviously focused on how we can help ensure the security of our borders. We are working with various Federal Agencies to determine how to best utilize this technology and I wanted to bring to your attention a few applications that we feel could be particularly useful.

Visa Issuance

As you are well aware, last month Ambassador Mary Ryan indicated in testimony before this very Subcommittee that she would like to expand the use of facial recognition technology with the Visa program. We believe an immediate use of facial recognition technology would be the full enrollment and comparison of the State Department’s visa database. With an estimated 10 million images already in the database, facial recognition is the only biometric that can compare every individual in this database against every other individual to look for multiple visas under assumed names. In addition, we could immediately run all 10 million images against the FBI and Intelligence community’s database of wanted terrorists. Most important to the on-going War on Terrorism, we have the capability to carry out this entire process in less than 90 days.

Going forward, as new visas are issued around the world there will continue to be a need to run these images against the faces of wanted terrorists. In almost every case, the only biometric information that we have about these terrorists is a picture. We would propose that as part of the application process, in addition to the security checks already undertaken, every individual’s picture would be compared to the watch-list before a visa is issued.

Port of Entry Screening

After a visa has been issued, we see a further use of facial recognition technology as a method of screening passengers at the Point of Entry. The use of biometric technology for airport security was recently endorsed in the Department of Transportation’s Airport Security report. We currently have deployed this surveillance technology at the International airport in Fresno, California and we are in talks with over a dozen additional airports throughout the United States.

In these airports, cameras will be used to quickly capture images of passengers and compare them against the terrorist watch-list. If a match is not made, the passenger’s image is immediately destroyed. In the event that a possible match is made, the passenger is further investigated.

Summary

As Congress undertakes the vitally important task of securing our borders, it is clear that biometric technology can play a role. Specifically, if a face is available, and time is limited, facial recognition technology is a valuable tool to further ensure identification and security.

With that, I am available to answer any questions you might have and would be happy to demonstrate for you how the technology works.