Facial recognition technology has helped to apprehend a violent criminal who has eluded the justice system for decades.
Sixty-four-year-old Robert F. Nelson had been convicted of counterfeiting crimes in the 1980s, but escaped from a prison medical center in 1992. He fled from New York to Nevada, where he went on to commit violent crimes including robberies under an assumed name. At some point in the late oughts, he went back to using his real name, and he obtained a state ID card in 2013.
Upon trying to renew the ID, however, the Nevada DMV’s facial recognition software matched his face against his previously assumed identity, which then prompted investigators to check the criminal histories of both. Nelson was told there was a problem with his application and asked to return to the DMV office, where he was then arrested.
The technology used in this case isn’t particularly sophisticated by contemporary facial recognition standards, with a Nevada DMV spokesperson telling ABC News that its matches are usually just between similar-looking individuals. But the spokesperson also said that the system catches fraud attempts two or three times a month, suggesting even basic biometric technology – the Nevada DMV’s system was first implemented in 2008 – can have a meaningful impact, both for the DMV’s bottom line and for identity impostors.
July 13, 2017 – by Alex Perala