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Friday, February 2
Digital scanning could combat terrorism



SALT LAKE CITY – Security planners for the 2002 Winter Olympics are examining video surveillance equipment used during the Super Bowl, a system some consider to be Big Brother-like.

Each facial image of the 100,000 fans and workers passing through the turnstiles at Raymond James Stadium for the Super Bowl was digitized and checked electronically against computer files of criminals.

No arrests were made, but the system did identify a known ticket scalper, who fled into the crowd.

Representatives of the Utah Olympic Planning Security Command watched the system in action. While no decision has been made, UOPSC leaders liked what they saw.

"It certainly has value," said Christopher Kramer, UOPSC spokesman. "It could be a preventative measure to stop terrorism."

Tampa police spokesman Joe Durkin encouraged Olympic planners to consider the system.

"At any international event, the potential for a terrorist event is much greater," Durkin said. "We were impressed; the system makes a match within seconds."

The software, developed by scientists of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1990s, is owned and marketed by Viisage Technology of Littleton, Mass.

Company spokeswoman Gretchen Lewis declined to put a price tag on the system, which was loaned to Tampa police in an attempt to market the technology.

The American Civil Liberties Union called it the "Snooper Bowl," saying it subjected unsuspecting fans to a "computerized police lineup."

In a letter to Tampa city officials, the civil liberties group asked for public hearings to discuss the practice and air complaints.

"We're hoping to get answers to a lot of questions," Howard Simon, Florida ACLU executive director, said Friday. "Who authorized it? Why weren't people informed they were becoming part of a computerized police lineup?"

The equipment assigns a numeric value to every face based on elements such as the spacing between eyes, ears and nose. Variants such as facial hair and glasses would not prevent a match in the database.

Carol Gnade, executive director of the Utah ACLU, feared the technology is "outpacing our basic privacy rights."

Utah Department of Corrections officials have tested the technology and are considering purchasing it for security at the prison, department spokesman Jack Ford said.

The system is already in place in some prisons, driver-license bureaus and Las Vegas casinos, where floor bosses are on the lookout for known cheats.

 




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