New technology was key to arrest of fugitive for 35 years

Indianapolis - State investigators say the very things that helped a convicted Indiana murderer stay under the radar for more than three decades were what finally got her caught.

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When Tennessee police officers saw the 1970s prison photo, they knew Linda Delaney, a well liked, small town grandmother, was in fact Linda Darby, an escapee from the Indiana Women's Prison. She was a wife convicted of settling a family financial hardship by shooting her husband and setting him and their Hammond home on fire.

The interviewer from Eyewitness News' sister station in Nashville asked her if she felt she had been living a lie all these years.

"Uh huh. But when do you stop? Where do you go back to?," said Darby.

Darby will soon be headed back to an Indiana prison to finish her life sentence. The key to her eventual capture, like so many long unsolved crimes, new technology.

"We had multiple analysts who worked on this case," said Monte McKee, Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center.

McKee runs the Fusion Center under the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. It was just ten days ago its state and federal analysts re-entered the data from the cold 1972 escape case of Linda Darby. 

In less than the equivalent of three workdays they were focused on a retirement aged Tennessee wife and mother of two. A woman who shared the first name of Linda, whose registered birth-date and social security number were just a few digits off their suspect's. Those were changes that might be easy for a fugitive to remember and avoid attracting attention.

McKee adds, "It was her undoing in this case as well."

Darby never got another driver's license, another red flag used to pick her from a database of millions of people. Officials hope to follow up this closed case with others. The Department of Corrections brought the Fusion Center analysts another 300 cases of missing prisoners and parolees.

China to build giant facial recognition database to identify any citizen within seconds

Project aims to achieve an accuracy rate of 90 per cent but faces formidable technological hurdles and concerns about security

 Facial recognition system for visitors is being used at China’s border control. 

Facial recognition system for visitors is being used at China’s border control. 

China is building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds.

The goal is for the system to able to match someone’s face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy.

The project, launched by the Ministry of Public Security in 2015, is under development in conjunction with a security company based in Shanghai.

The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country, according to people familiar with the project.

However, some researchers said it was unclear when the system would be completed, as the development was encountering many difficulties due to the technical limits of facial recognition technology and the large population base.

At present, similar systems operate on a smaller level, including police databases and city or provincial ID pools.

But these operate separately and are on a much smaller scale.There is also a national database of police suspects and people of interest to the government.These may continue to be used independently after the national system is established.

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The core data set for the national system, containing the portrait information of each Chinese citizen, amounts to 13 terabytes.

The size of the full database with detailed personal information does not exceed 90 terabytes, according to technical documents on the ministry’s website and a paper written by police researchers.

Chen Jiansheng, an associate professor at the department of electrical engineering at Tsinghua University and a member of the ministry’s Committee of Standardisation overseeing technical developments in police forces, said the system would have to be built on an unprecedented scale because no country had a population as big as China’s.

The system was being developed for security and government uses such as tracking wanted suspects and public administration, he said.

Commercial application using information sourced from the database will not be allowed under current regulations.

“[But] a policy can change due to the development of the economy and increasing demand from society,” Chen said.

Giving commercial sectors access to the database under proper regulation would create new business opportunities by helping to improve customer service, he said.

Chinese companies are already taking the commercial application of facial recognition technology to new heights.

With a smile or blink of the eyes to a camera, students can now enter their university halls, travellers can board planes without using a boarding pass and diners can pay for a meal at KFC.

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Some other restaurants have even offered discounts to customers based on a machine that ranks their looks according to an algorithm. Customers with “beautiful” characteristics – such as symmetrical features – get better scores than those with noses that are “too big” or “too small” and those that get better scores will get cheaper meals.

Some public lavatories in Beijing also use facial recognition so that the automatic dispensing machines will deny toilet paper to people who ask for it more than once within a given period.

Facial recognition could supersede other personal identification methods that are used to make payments such as scanning fingerprints or QR codes on a mobile phone.

But the government project has prompted controversy among artificial intelligence experts.

Cheng Mingming, a professor of computer science at Nankai University in Tianjin, said that despite the scale of the project, technological advances meant that all the information could be stored in small, portable drives – which raised the risk of data theft.

He said a palm-sized commercial hard drive nowadays could store 10 terabytes or more of data and you could “pack it in a suitcase and board a flight”.“If the facial data and related personal information is stolen and put on the internet, it will cause big problems,” Cheng said.

For instance, due to the rapid advance of facial recognition technology, a person or organisation could take a photo and identify strangers at a party or on the street without their knowledge, Cheng said.

But a network security vendor for the Ministry of Public Security dismissed the possibility.“To download the whole data set is as difficult as launching a missile with a nuclear warhead. It requires several high-ranking officials to insert and turn their keys at the same time,” the vendor said.

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The 1.3 billion-person facial recognition system is being developed by Isvision, a security company based in Shanghai.

Isvision confirmed to the South China Morning Post that it had won the contract last year but declined to provide details.

“The progress of development is confidential. At present we have no information for public disclosure,” a company spokesperson said.

Isvision security cameras with facial recognition capabilities were first deployed in Tiananmen Square as early as 2003, according to the company’s website.

The system was connected to the police database of suspects, capable of recognising and tracking potential targets in a large crowd.

The company has also set up similar systems for law enforcement authorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, where riots have broken out from time to time because of serious ethnic conflicts.

According to Fan Ying, a researcher at the ministry’s population management research centre in Beijing, the project team has encountered “unprecedented challenges” due to the government’s high demands for speed and accuracy.

When a photo, gender and age range are inputted, the system is required to find a match within three seconds with an accuracy level higher than 88 per cent.

Fan and colleagues tested the facial recognition algorithm developed by Tsinghua University, a world-leading institute in this field of research, and they were disappointed with the results.

They found that the accuracy of the photo that most closely matched the face being searched for was below 60 per cent. With the top 20 matches the accuracy rate remained below 70 per cent, Fan and collaborators reported in a paper published in the domestic journal Electronic Science and Technology in May.

“It cannot solve problems with real-life applications,” they added.

The system developed by Isvision will use an algorithm developed by SeetaTech, a start-up established by several researchers from the Institute of Computing Technology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

SeetaTech confirmed to the SCMP its involvement in the national facial recognition project but declined to comment further.

A researcher at the Institute of Computing Technology familiar with the project said some huge technical hurdles remained.

“Among 1.3 billion people, some totally unrelated people have faces so alike even their parents cannot tell them apart,” the researcher said.

“Currently the access to the database is limited to a few security companies with very close ties with the Ministry of Public Security.“More access will definitely lead to higher risk of [data] leakage.”

The researcher warned that the cost of the convenience facial recognition could bring to everyday life was “sacrificing security”.

In China, these facial-recognition glasses are helping police to catch criminals

Officers are using the technology at a railway station in Henan province during the Lunar New Year holiday period to search for wanted criminals

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Police in a city in central China are using special glasses with facial-recognition software to help search for wanted criminals passing through a railway station during the Lunar New Year holiday travel rush.

  The glasses are connected to a tablet device that searches for matches of faces scanned. Photo: AFP

The glasses are connected to a tablet device that searches for matches of faces scanned. Photo: AFP

Up to Tuesday, police had identified seven fugitives related to hit-and-run and human trafficking cases, plus spotted 26 cases of identity fraud with the use of the glasses at four entrances at the station, according to Cnrail.net, a website that covers China’s railway news.

The spectacles were designed for police use and are linked to a tablet device. After scanning the face of the passenger coming into the station, the device activates software to search faces in a database, looking for a match with suspects.

About 70,000 to 120,000 people use the railway station each day.

US. National ID. card coming soon?

September 11 was quickly followed by calls from some lawmakers and business leaders for a more robust national identification system: ID cards that possess sophisticated biometric data, making them harder to forge than today's driver's licenses.

  What the US. National ID. card could look like with its security features.

What the US. National ID. card could look like with its security features.

Privacy advocates are strongly opposed, arguing that such cards, while enabling the government to track individuals and access personal data, would do little to separate the innocent citizen from the walking security threat.

For now, the Trump administration is cool to the idea, but it's not hard to envision the Department of Homeland Security re-examining the concept if further terrorist attacks occur.

More than 30 countries, from Italy to Malaysia, have already introduced "smart" ID cards. If you're eventually issued a national card, it will likely incorporate several of the technologies shown here, combined to make the card readable by both high- and low-tech devices.

1. Your USID number

Most logically your Social Security number. Although the federal government has rejected using the SS card as an ID card, the number is already used by the IRS. If a card is introduced, it's a good guess the Department of Homeland Security would manage it, possibly issuing different classes of cards for citizens, green card holders, and others.

2. Optical Memory Strip

An optical memory data strip (like a small CD laminated onto the card) locks in 4MB of read-only data, which can be read by an optical scanner. The strip can contain a digitized image of a fingerprint and a photo, along with essential personal data such as previous addresses, mother's maiden name, and, optionally, medical data such as allergies. Room remains for scanned documents, X rays, or digital signatures. LaserCard of Mountain View, California, adds an embedded hologram.

3. Photograph

Standard printing technology, which lays down ink on the card material, easily succumbs to skilled forgers. One step up is laser engraving: Machines permanently etch a photo into the card material, usually a polymer such as polycarbonate. It's virtually impossible to erase or alter a laser-engraved image without leaving telltale marks. But a trained person is still needed to examine the card for sophisticated tampering. Another step up: Integrate a radio frequency identification (RFID) device, which would automate the authentication process. An RFID chip and antenna would be placed beneath the photo. If the image is altered, the chip and antenna are disturbed, and a portable reader will register a problem.

4. Smart card technology

With the addition of an integrated circuit microprocessor, the card can perform data manipulation and run cryptographic algorithms. The processor makes it possible to limit the amount of data any one official can access. For example, an ER doctor could view medical information and enter data about treatment (if the card's data storage device is read-write capable), but could not see security-related data (such as a traveler's flight history, or a non-citizen's visa status) that an airport or INS official might require. But how secure are smart cards? Detailed instructional hacking sites can be found on the Web, many focusing on European cards. And the more data on a card, the more valuable the card becomes to an identity thief.

5. Internal Memory Strip

Currently manufactured only by UltraCard of Los Gatos, California, this rewritable internal strip can store 20MB of data, roughly the capacity of 14 floppy disks—essentially giving the card a (tiny) hard drive. The capacity may soon grow by a factor of 10, according to the manufacturer. A high-capacity device could store rich biometric data such as several fingerprints, iris scans, face scans, heartbeat characteristics, or DNA sequences. In a relatively simple application, law enforcement officials access the card data using a portable reader and match it to the biometrics of the person presenting the card. Or an entry control system might be developed that automatically matches, for example, the iris scan on the card with the cardholder's iris.

6. 2-D Bar Code

This low-tech info coding could be used by officials who don't have more sophisticated optical reading devices. A big step up from the simple 20-byte-capacity bar code you see on cereal boxes, the 2-D bar code stores information in vertical and horizontal lines—up to 2KB or more of data, potentially including text, a photo, and a limited amount of biometrics. These bar codes are already used on driver's licenses in several states, generally to code the same information that's on the face of the card. The technology is virtually tamperproof. The main problem: relatively small capacity per inch of card real estate. Datastrip Inc. of Exton, Pennsylvania, says it can cram 2.8KB of data into a space the size of a conventional thin magnetic strip. The company also sells a portable reader with an integrated fingerprint identifier.

WHOSE DATABASE, ANYWAY?

The biggest challenge for a national ID system is ensuring the accuracy of the information used to build a database of names, biometrics, and the like. There are more than 200 million state driver's licenses in the country, representing the largest collection of data of its kind.

The most pressing question: How accurate are these databases? How easy is it to obtain a license fraudulently? As the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators points out, al Qaeda terrorists used licenses to build U.S. identities.

In January the AAMVA proposed beefing up the system by establishing uniform standards for licenses, coordinating data between states, and improving security and biometrics. A national ID initiative could be a springboard for this effort.