Winnipeg law enforcement will start using software that automatically applies biometric analysis to identify faces of child pornography victims and offenders, in an effort to both hasten the process and minimize the emotional trauma the gruesome task inflicts on police officers.
LACE (Law Enforcement Against Child Exploitation) software, created by Quebec-based BlueBear LES Inc., is based on three algorithms. The first, soft image matching, searches for matches across pictures that are mathematically or numerically different, like .gif and .jpeg, thumbnail and large resolution image, and cropped and original-sized picture.
Another algorithm, face extractor, can extract faces from image and video sources by identifying features like the nose, eyes and mouth. Finally, the biometric facial algorithm identifies faces and matches them against known faces in other sources.
According to the company’s CEO, Antoine Normand, the software has a 100 per cent accuracy rate with no false positives when the trigger, or confidence level, is set at 80 per cent. At that level, although the technology may fail to make certain matches or identifications due to, say, a partially deleted file, Normand assures there are never false positives.
While LACE has applications beyond law enforcement like radiology to detect breast cancer growths in before and after images as well as some military applications, BlueBear “decided to focus on the security world in general… because the child pornography problem is a huge problem,” said Normand.
For release in the near future, Normand said BlueBear is currently working on expanding its soft image matching technology to video content “to be able to tell you that this scene in this AVI document was a subset of that larger MPEG document that was seen.” He anticipates software testing will begin in the fall or winter of 2009 with a possible release at the end of that period.
However, in the longer term, BlueBear is focusing its biometric technology on counter-terrorism to facilitate recognition in “an almost real-time face extraction,” said Normand, and extract faces from live video for comparison against a database of known faces. That software is still at the drawing board and will eventually be tailored to meet specific requirements of individual law enforcement agencies.
Another vendor of image identification and visual search software, Toronto-based Idee Inc., is in the midst of conversations with law enforcement agencies in Canada and the U.S. around its TinEye technology, a large scale image search engine that pinpoints in real-time where an image has appeared online.
Currently the TinEye database houses 700 million images (scheduled to hit one billion in a couple of weeks) against which users can compare an uploaded image and retrieve matching images.