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FBI Facial Recognition Caught a Fugitive on the Run For 14 Years

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The FBI's facial recognition initiative is big and getting bigger. And it's just proved that it works too, by helping capture a fugitive who's been on the run for 14 years, during testing in Asia.


Neil Stammer has been evading U.S. authorities since 1999, when he was arrested for child sex abuse and kidnapping. His chances of successfully blending into the hustle and bustle of foreign shores was high—police reports explain he speaks over ten languages—so when it came to light that he'd left the country using false papers, it seemed unlikely he'd be easy to trace.

Fast-forward 14 years, and the Diplomatic Security Service was handling a visa application to the US Embassy in Nepal which was submitted under the name of Kevin Hodges. Running the associated images through facial recognition showed that the face of Hodges was incredibly similar to that of Stammer. In fact, it was the same—and he's now been returned to New Mexico to face child sex abuse charges.


It's a nice example of high the FBI's facial recognition technology is actually being used. In reality, it's not being used on grainy CCTV images of the mean streets; rather, it's working with well-lit, clear passport-style photographs that people assume will never be compared. It could be years until we can accurately pick out a single face in large crowd using this technology, but the days or forged paperwork helping criminals cross borders could well be over. [FBI via Verge]