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U.K. cops look into face-recognition tech

Police force is investigating whether to add biometrics to a national database of mugshots it is building.

The U.K.'s police force is investigating how to incorporate facial-recognition software into a new national mugshot database so it can track down criminals faster.

The Police Information Technology Organization is already working on a Facial Images National Database (FIND) project to deliver a national mugshot database for law enforcement agencies in England, Scotland and Wales. It aims to create a database of stills and videos of facial images, marks, scars and tattoos that'll be linked to criminals' details on the Police National Computer. The first FIND pilot is planned for the first quarter of this year, with police forces in the north of England.

Now the IT agency wants to look at the business case for the national introduction of face-recognition technology by police forces.

The agency said it has awarded contracts to Aurora Computer Services to install its facial-recognition technology to provide demonstrations of the technology to the police service and other government agencies.

Geoff Whitaker, the IT agency's head of biometrics, said the organization is "in the process of assessing the ability of current face-recognition technology to meet the requirements of the police service for automated identification."

With the rollout of the FIND database, Whitaker said, the use of facial biometrics will take on "greater importance" in policing.

He added in a statement: "As with any biometric, such as fingerprints, iris (scans) or DNA, the usefulness of facial recognition in identification is dependant on the circumstances in which it is used.

"Whilst at the present time it seems unlikely that the accuracy of automated facial-recognition technology will ever match that of fingerprints, it is nevertheless a powerful tool used by each of us everyday to identify friends, colleagues and loved ones, and it has a vital role to play within the investigative process."

Steve Ranger reported for