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Iowa Implementing Face Recognition Program To Track Sex Offenders

January 2, 2013 | Telepresence Options


AFP Photo / Mario Tama


The Iowa Department of Public Safety has secured $110,000 in federal funds that will be used to implement a state-wide face recognition program that will start with tracking convicted sex criminals.

Terry Cowman, the special agent in charge of the Iowa sex offender registry program, tells the Globe Gazette newspaper that the DPS is around one-third of the way to having enough money to make science fiction a reality in the Midwestern state. His fingers are crossed that an additional grant will be awarded in 2013 that will provide another $180,000, at which point the agency can start digitizing around 10,000 images to be used in an expansive and expensive surveillance program based off of biometric analysis.

When all of the images are scanned in and the state is done training its staff, the Gazette's says Cowman and his crew will be able to comb through security camera images and even Facebook photos in order to pick out people from a crowd and cross-reference them with a list of over 5,600 registered sex offenders using only their personally identifiable facial features, or biometrics.

"Biometrics is really coming up to play a big part in law enforcement and investigations and things like that," Cowman adds to reporter Mike Wiser. "What's interesting about facial rec is it is kind of the future of where we're at."

Iowa isn't the first location to look towards biometrics, but it will be a big step in the grand scheme of implementing intensive face recognition programs elsewhere if it indeed gets off the ground. The state isn't likely to see much opposition when it comes to cracking down on criminals that prey on innocent children, but investigators may soon find themselves on a slippery slope once anyone is under the government's microscope.

"You always start with sex offenders because nobody is going to stick up for sex offenders," State Rep. Chip Baltimore (R-Boone) tells the Gazette. "The question is where it goes from there."

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