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Seen At 11: TV Facial Recognition Technology Becomes Reality

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — You may not know it, but your face is as unique as your fingerprints, and now, there is new technology that uses your face to screen for security risks.

As CBS 2’s Maurice DuBois reported Wednesday, we’ve seen it on hit shows such as “Person of Interest” and “CSI,” technology that allows police to find criminals anywhere — on the run, and even in a crowd.

Now, that same technology is being used in the real world — not by law enforcement, but by private institutions and companies, including one synagogue located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

“This camera is set on the main entrance doors,” said security expert David Boehm. “They want to be able to see if anyone is coming into the building that shouldn’t be.”

For security reasons, the name of the synagogue is not being released, but safety concerns prompted its leaders to take action, DuBois reported.

Boehm said he put in the system to help protect the children who attend school there. The technology was set up to specifically target convicted child molesters.

The camera snaps a picture of everyone who walks through the front door, and then the technology compares each photo to hundreds of images of convicted pedophiles who have already done their time, looking for a match.

“We found about 10 or 15 individuals that are in this ZIP code for this institution,” one official told DuBois. “If one of these individuals shows up, we’ll get an alert.”

But does that mean parents and children should feel more secure? There was no consensus among parents.

“You can never go too far when it come to protecting your kids,” one parent said.

“That sounds a little extreme and an infringement on everyone else who is not a pedophile,” said Sabrina Baronberg.

Fordham University professor Joel Reidenberg, who specializes in cybersecurity, said the implementation of the technology at the school “seems to be a response to fear.”

“It certainly worries me that what we’re doing is taking another giant leap toward a total surveillance society,” Reidenberg added.

And worse, the professor also said the system is known for high error rates.

“You’re going to wrongfully identify people and that means slander and defamation claims.”

Boehm, however, argued the technology is improving every day and that it’s worth it, despite any problems.

“We have the right to know who’s coming to our building, who’s coming to our institution, who’s hanging out in front of our buildings that could be looking to do us harm,” Boehm said.

But Reidenberg said if the practice became normative, it would be a step too far.

“If every building on the block starts to do something like this – is that really the type of New York we want to live in?” he said.

Facial recognition technology is in use everywhere, from hospital emergency rooms to major sporting venues.

The U.S. Department of Commerce is set to hold hearings this month to address privacy and other issued raised by private companies.

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