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Biometrics valid evidence in trial, judge rules

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A San Francisco judge ruled that biometric facial recognition could be submitted as legal evidence in a trial. Is the technology ready for the courtroom?

We just caught wind of this here at SmartPlanet, but a San Francisco judge ruled in July that biometric facial recognition could be submitted as legal evidence in a trial.

It's the first time such evidence was used in a criminal trial, and opens the door to a series of legal questions, namely because facial recognition technology is neither definitively accurate nor up to basic legal standards for evidence.

The case was for Charles Heard, who received a sentence of 25 years to life for murder.

Surveillance cameras captured footage of a man believed to have shot and killed another in an armed robbery. Defense attorneys submitted still frames from the video and offered testimony from a biometrics expert who said comparisons demonstrate that Heard was not the shooter.

Homeland Security Newswire reports:

In Germany officials found that the technology only had a 60 percent success rate in identifying people during the day, while at night it dropped to as low as 10 percent due to poor lighting conditions that made accurate identification difficult.

Despite the footage, Heard was eventually convicted by a jury.

But it raises an interesting question: is biometric technology accurate enough to be admitted as evidence alongside scientific standards such as DNA and fingerprints?

Illustration: Ajmal Mian/University of Western Australia

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure