From ABC News, January 24, 2008

Researchers claim they have perfected a system that uses computers to accurately identify images of people’s faces, which could aid in the apprehension of criminals in public places such as airports that use surveillance cameras, according to a study released Thursday.

But some experts still doubt that facial recognition software can be used to accurately pick people out of crowded, public areas. Comparing a database of images of criminals, to a real live person in a crowd, has been very difficult, concedes Rob Jenkins, a professor in the psychology department of the University of Glasgow and co-author of the study released in the journal Science. But using a newly developed program at the university, computers were found to be 100 percent accurate when using what they call an “averaged” face image, made up of 20 photos, Jenkins and co-author Mike Burton wrote in the paper.

“The great thing about this averaging process is it just washes out all these differences of single photographs. The lighting and the pose all kind of becomes neutralized,” Jenkins told And what you’re just left with is the core of the face. The aspects of the image are consistent from one photo to the next.”

Facial recognition programs have been used for years. The most successful applications have been in the government or the private sector, mostly to help identify employees seeking access to sensitive areas. Casinos have also been using the software to help spot criminals or known card cheats sitting at gaming tables.

“I’m skeptical that it will be able to show that there is 100 percent accuracy in facial recognition technology, especially in using facial recognition technology out of a crowd,” said Melissa Ngo, director of the Identification and Surveillance Project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “We’ve seen any number of studies and examples when trying to use facial recognition technology itself has been completely flustered when the subject is not standing still or in the right light, looking right at the camera.”

Entire article is here.