DHS’s Facial/Iris Recognition Can ID Airline Passengers Wearing Masks

DHS’s Facial/Iris Recognition Can ID Airline Passengers
Wearing Masks 1

By MassPrivateI

It is official, unless airline passengers are willing to wear
motorcycle helmets or Daft Punk
style masks
, the Feds can use facial and iris recognition to
identify nearly everyone.

According to an S&T
press release
, a pilot program run by DHS proves they can use
facial/iris recognition to identify airline passengers.

The in-person rally, held at the Maryland Test Facility (MdTF),
included 10 days of human testing during which six face and/or iris
acquisition systems and 13 matching algorithms were tested with
help from 582 diverse test volunteers representing 60

What is DHS’s so-called motivation to ID everyone?

According to their “Ongoing
Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT):�Face recognition accuracy
with  masks using pre-COVID-19 algorithmsâ€
report, their
motivation to ID everyone was inspired by COVID-19.

Inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic response, the widespread
requirement that people wear protective face masks in public places
has driven a need to understand how cooperative face recognition
technology deals with occluded faces, often with just the
periocular area and above visible.  An increasing number of
research publications have surfaced on the topic of face
recognition on people wearing masks along with face-masked research

The feds’ shameless pandemic motivation to ID airline
passengers wearing masks is in full swing as is evidenced by a
recent Federal News Network

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“Another bit of work that we’ve been doing during the
pandemic, obviously, is to look at – can face recognition work
when somebody is wearing a protective face mask?†NIST computer
scientist and biometrics expert Patrick Grother said

Taken together, these comments essentially mean DHS, TSA and the
CBP were having issues IDing people wearing masks and needed to
find a solution.

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According to the NIST report it does not matter if a mask covers
most of a person’s face or the type[s] of masks people wear.

We baselined those with unmasked faces with the result that FNMR
increases by factors of around 10,  25, and 36 respectively for the
median algorithm.

The NIST is basically saying a face mask only adds a 10%-36%
difficulty factor to IDing people.

There is some good news though. The shape and color
of masks can confuse facial recognition.

The NIST report did acknowledge that they have a harder time
IDing people with wider shaped masks and black masks.

Results show that wide-width masks generally give false negative
rates about a factor of two higher than do rounder type
masks.  Most algorithms have higher error rates in black masks than
light-blue masks. The reason for observed accuracy differences
between mask color is unknown but is a point for consideration by
impacted developers.  Mask color also affects the rate at which
some algorithms fail to produce a template from an image.

The report also noted that they did not try to ID people wearing
textured face masks.

The consequences of this are that we do not capture the the
increasing diversity of masks worn recently, including those with
corporate logos, text, patterns, or those advertised to thwart face
recognition. The possibility exists for patterned masks to induce
higher facial localization errors, which is not captured in our
current study. We received a suggestion that such information may
serve as a soft biometric, in that a subject that always wears the
same textured mask will be more identifiable.

What this means is that facial recognition AIs get confused by
logos and textures. The report also admitted that if a person wears
the same type of mask everywhere, officials will have a better
chance of IDing them.

How can law enforcement use “soft biometrics†to ID a

If as person wears a ‘textured’ mask to a retail store to
make a purchase, CCTV cameras and license plate readers or ‘soft
biomterics’ can be used to ID them. If a person wears a
‘textured’ mask and is accompanied by a friend or family member
not wearing a textured mask ‘soft biomterics’ can be used to ID
their friends and family. And finally, if a person is wearing a
‘textured’ mask and uses a credit/debit card to purchase
something, ‘soft biomterics’ can be used to ID them.

DHS was so ‘inspired’ to ID everyone wearing masks as a
result of COVID-19 that they tested close to 90 facial recognition
companies to figure out which one was the best. (pages 5 &

Contrary to what the Feds have been telling the public about
banning Chinse and Russian biometric companies, they tested at
least 16 Chinese companies and at least one Russian company to help
them ID people.

DHS’s Facial/Iris Recognition Can ID Airline Passengers
Wearing Masks 2

The final result of testing 90 facial recognition programs is
that now DHS
can ID between 77% -96% of people wearing masks

they can now ID nearly every person wearing a mask.

“Through careful selection of camera systems and matching
systems, it appears possible to verify most people’s identity
without requiring them to remove their mask. This isn’t a perfect
100% solution, but it may reduce risks for many travelers, as well
as the frontline staff working in airports, who no longer have to
ask travelers to remove masks,â€Arun Vemury, director of
S&T’s Biometric and Identity Technology Center said.

Testing nearly a 100 facial recognition companies to help DHS
and law enforcement ID people wearing masks is the opposite of
inspiring. I would classify it as appalling.


Top image credit:
New Atlas

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DHS’s Facial/Iris Recognition Can ID Airline Passengers Wearing

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