Scanning for pedophiles

This strikes me as paranoid and weird: An Phoenix middle has installed cameras that scan the biometrics of visitors, looking for sex offenders and missing children. The Arizona Republic reports:

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the cameras cost about $3,000 to $5,000 for a school to install and will not violate the privacy of anyone not already in the Arizona sex offender or in the national missing children databases, including possible abductors of missing children. If the camera registers a possible hit, the Sheriff’s Office is quietly alerted and will send a deputy or police officer to investigate.

. . . The system scans 28 facial features and matches them against logged images in the databases. School personnel will not know about the alert, and images that do not match the databases are erased, with no permanent recording.

The odds of catching a child molester or finding a missing child are smaller than the risk of creating a false sense of security and a complacence about ubiquitous monitoring.

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  1. Steve LaBonne says:

    As far as I know, all objective tests performed thus far have shown that current facial-matching software technology works very poorly, with lots of both false positives and false negatives. A foolish investment by the school.

  2. PJ/Maryland says:

    I have the same general impression as Steve. I think maybe the sheriff and principal have been watching too much TV.

    As I think we discussed about drug tests a while back, the false positives here are going to be a major problem. Even if an alert only goes out once a month, the vast majority of them will be false positives. How long before the sheriff’s office doesn’t bother to send anyone?

    On the privacy issue, once the cameras are up and running, it’s very easy to add people to the database. So what mechanism prevents the sheriff’s office from simply adding deadbeat dads to the database, and eventually works its way down to parking ticket scofflaws? I think they’d be tempted, especially when it starts to look like the $3k they spent has been a complete waste.

    I also thought this line was pretty pretentious: Principal Mike Christensen carries around the responsibility for the safety of Royal Palm’s 1,180 seventh- and eighth-graders.

    In his pocket, no doubt.

  3. Interesting to note that this is the same sheriff who gained national attention for housing prison inmates in large tents in the desert, reduced meals to bologna sandwiches and forcing them to wear pink underware (a horrible fate.. heh).

    His theory was that using tax payer money on air conditioning, television and a jail large enough to hold all the prisoners was a total waste and that if inmater were uncomfortable enough, they’d go and sin no more. Or at least leave his jurisdiction.