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Facial recognition you see in movies can only be seen in movies

The sci-fi style of facial recognition often seen in movies, where the main hero enters a surveillance room and uses cameras all over town to instantaneously find the bad guy does not yet exist, law enforcement has confirmed.

Emphasis on the “yet”, I’d say.

During a recently held biometrics conference in London, Jim Loudermilk, a senior level technologist at the FBI's science and technology branch, said the agency does not have access to real-time face-recognition biometrics on such a grand scale.

"Here in London you are all familiar with the vast numbers of cameras. But most of you probably don't realise that what you see in the science fiction movies is not true.”

He added that the current technology is not capable of such advanced facial recognition.

"My own assessment is that the use of pattern-matching technology for faces is about at the maturity level that pattern matching of fingerprints was in the late 1980s. We do not have highly reliable automated systems that can instantaneously ingest video and track people from camera to camera unaided by a human being."

But as with anything else, throw enough money and eventually, you can get what you want: "If we were prepared to spend a few hundred million dollars and add several hundred people as skilled examiners we probably could do positive identification from faces in a decade, but I think it's unlikely we will choose to make that sort of investment."

Former FBI agent Leo Taddeo believes that someday technology like this will be available to us.

“Today, it may not be possible to spot a known terrorist in a photo of a crowd at a sporting event, but someday that capability will exist," he told V3 (opens in new tab).

Sead Fadilpašić
Sead Fadilpašić

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.