Criminals to be caught by their tattoos: Recognition software will scan Facebook for incriminating markings

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By Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED:13:30 EST, 9  September 2012| UPDATED:14:25 EST, 9 September 2012

Police may soon be able to catch criminals by  the ink they are sporting.

Computer scientists are developing a new  program that will be able to identify suspects by their tattoos and match them  to photos in police databases or on social media.

Automatic identification through recognition  of body art could provide a much needed breakthrough in detective work, often  thwarted by grainy footage from surveillance videos that make it difficult to  see a criminal’s face to use facial recognition.

Tattoo artist at workTattoo recognition: Computer scientists are developing a  computer program that will be able to identify suspects by their tattoos and  match them to photos in police databases (file photo)

‘Those photos are often so bad that face  recognition wouldn’t come even close’ to finding a match in a database, Terrance  Boult, a computer science professor at the University of Colorado, explained  to Live  Science.

To rectify this problem, Boult worked with a  team of researchers to develop a computer program that reviews body ink, scars,  moles and visible skin markings in photos.

The program scans images for these  identifiable skin symbols and then looks for people bearing the same markings in  a photo database.

The program is designed to pick up patterns  in tattoos and could even link together members of gangs, who often share body  tags.

Though this isn’t the first program to  examine body markings for identification, the computer program was designed to  better handle low quality photos, like those taken from a smart phone.

Michelle 'Bombshell' McGee

Body art: Police could use technology to find criminals  by their body art. A man (left) shows off his ink, as does Michelle ‘Bombshell’  McGee (right), the tattooed model who had an affair with Jesse James

The pictures, captured ‘in the wild,’  according to Notre Dame computer scientist Kevin Bowyer, could greatly enhance  police ability to solve crimes.

It will also allow police to search by eye  witness account, just based off a description from a bystander.

‘The idea of detecting markings on the skin  and using them as a way to recognize people has emerged as an interesting new  research topic in recent years,’ Kevin Bowyer, a Notre Dame computer scientist,  told Live Science.

The new program designed by Boult and his  team, ‘introduces improvements that are meant to move past proof-of-concept  toward more practical tools,’ Bowyer added.

Boult and his team will introduce their  computer system on September 25 at a conference in Washington, D.C., organized  by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

The new developments in body art recognition  comes in the wake of news that the FBI plans to upgrade its database of  criminals’ faces.

The $1 billion scheme will help officials fight crime by matching surveillance photographs with images of known offenders and will use several hi-tech identification measures such as DNA analysis, voice recognition and iris scans to help fight crimes.

But some fear the new ‘national photographic  database’ will encroach on the privacy of the innocent.

(file photo)Photo database: The FBI plans to build a $1 billion  database of Americans’ photographs for a new facial recognition software (file  photo

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