BOSS: DHS’ facial recognition project aims to improve accuracy at long distance

Madison Ruppert
Activist Post

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put out a contract worth over $5.1 million in order to create the Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS) at Stand-off Distance, which is an attempt to improve the accuracy of long-distance facial recognition.

Facial recognition technology has improved by leaps and bounds in terms of speed and accuracy over recent years. The government has poured a great deal of money into deploying facial recognition technology around the country as well.

Government databases have expanded rapidly and local police have begun to use facial recognition technology to arrest suspects. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit against the FBI earlier this year in an attempt to obtain documents about such a database. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) also sued the FBI after they failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests related to their facial recognition database.

Yet it seems that the federal government is planning to actually expand their investment in facial recognition technology with the latest contract, revealed in documents published by The New York Times on Wednesday.

Among the 67 pages of documents is the DHS statement of work, which states, “The DHS is responsible for the biometric identification of persons to determine if persons entering areas are currently on federal watch lists.”

“To accomplish this task, DHS components require the ability to positively identify/screen individuals in a secure, efficient, accurate, and timely manner,” the statement continues. “This ability encompasses the collection, storage, transmission, and receipt of biometric and biographic data to support the component missions. The resulting capability will be portable and operable in a wide variety of areas and conditions (i.e. day/night, arid/humid climates, hot/cold temperature extremes.)”

Currently, many facial recognition systems are limited in their ability to identify in the variety of conditions outlined in the statement. In addition, many systems are not at all portable. Apparently, DHS seeks to make both of these limitations a thing of the past.

“The output from these acquisition databases must be usable for searches of large-scale biometric databases (1 to many) and/or verification against a previously taken biometric sample (1 to 1),” the document states.

Most interesting of all, the statement of work reveals that the technology will be utilizing 3-Dimensional facial recognition, something which is far more accurate and requires only a small part of the suspect’s face to be captured.

Electronic Warfare Associates (EWA) is the primary contractor on the project and worked between October 12, 2010 and November 16, 2012.

However, as Ars Technica points out, “the document notes that the DHS ‘may give subsequent extension notices to the contractor in Writing for further performance in accordance with the contract.’”

According to a DHS official cited by the Times, “research was continuing” on the project, though in its current state it is apparently not quite ready for deployment.

“The agency set up six tests to determine the technology’s overall accuracy, determining afterward that ‘it was not ready for a D.H.S. customer’ — meaning that police departments should not buy it,” according to the Times.

Ed Tivol of EWA and University of Louisville computer vision specialist Aly Farag told the Times that the remaining obstacles for the technology will fall away as computer processing becomes faster.

However, researchers are also creating ways to thwart facial recognition cameras, like the less-than-fashionable anti-facial recognition glasses developed in Japan.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM – 9 PM PT/10 PM – 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at

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