A facial recognition company called Face Forensics has recently announced the rollout of a new tattoo detection system and database which could help them track citizens by their body art. The new technology was developed in response to an overwhelming demand from law enforcement agencies, who wanted another tool in their spy arsenal. In addition to identifying tattoos, the system cal also detect any other scars, or marks and associate them with photos from a database.
According to a description on the company’s website:
As with f2 face recognition, tattoos are first enrolled by determining and encoding a number of specific characteristics of the image. The nature and relative position of these is transformed into a numeric string, which is stored as an encoded array together with the record ID in f2’s own internal database. This process is complex and will typically take a few seconds for each image. The resulting encode arrays are held in memory on a matching server, enabling subsequent searches to be extremely fast. f2 analyzes images in read-only mode and stores the resulting non-reversible encode arrays – it doesn’t store the images themselves.
The f2 Tattoo Module is designed to match an unknown tattoo against a database of tattoos in order to determine if there is a matching tattoo (or tattoos) there. Unlike hashing algorithms, f2 will match a cropped, re-saved, or reformatted tattoo against those in the database. Results are displayed as thumbnails of potentially matching tattoos, in descending order of Match%. Any of these can be selected to display the face and name of the owner in the original database record.
The result of a Tattoo search will be a number of thumbnail images that have the same or similar characteristics to the image being searched (the “probe” image), above a user-defined threshold. An officer can then visually scan the images to determine which, if any, is the same tattoo. The face associated with any selected tattoo is displayed, together with a link back to the original record. The benefit of f2 is therefore that it can find a matching tattoo in seconds where an officer could take many hours or longer to find a match.
It is not clear how the database will be compiled or if the tattoos of innocent people will be included in the records. However, it can be assumed that anyone who is arrested will have their tattoos documented by police for future arrests. Even prior to the development of this technology, police have photographed the tattoos of people who are arrested even for the smallest of charges.
Below is a demonstration of how the program will work:
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