Iowa looks to digitize sex offender mug shots, arm sheriff’s departments with facial recognition

December 17, 2012 - 

The Iowa Department of Public Safety is about to equip every Iowa sheriff’s department with an electronic signature pad, laptop and digital camera to use facial recognition software in an attempt to digitize the mug shots of sex offenders in the state, the Sioux City Journal reports.

Terry Cowman, a special agent in charge of the state’s sex offender registry program has roughly US$110,000 to pay for the hardware through a federal grant and is seeking another $180,000 to pay for the software and training that would allow the state to digitize roughly 10,000 photos.

According to the article, the move to digitize and analyze the faces of sex offenders has raised concerns about what the technology will be used for next.

“You always start with sex offenders because nobody is going to stick up for sex offenders,” Rep. Chip Baltimore R-Boone, a lawyer who chairs the House Judiciary committee. “The question is where it goes from there.”

As reported previously in, facial recognition is a biometric gaining traction quickly in the marketplace, across a wide array of uses. Two leading porn sites have offered free facial recognition tools to help users fulfill their fantasies and find look-alikes or similar-looking performers online. Likewise, displaying its benefits for law enforcement, Animetrics recently showcased its newest facial recognition offering, the Forensica GPS, which has the ability to transform obscured or angular 2D images and can create three-dimensional visualizations of these faces for ID verification and comparison.

Though its unclear which facial recognition solution the Iowa sheriff’s departments will use, as SecureIDNews reported, the Iowa Department of Transformation procured software from Digimarc Corp to eliminate driver’s license fraud in 2006.

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Adam Vrankulj is an editor for His background consists of online news writing, editing and content marketing. Adam has written for, BlogTO and was the editor and curator for the nextMEDIA and CIX Source publications. He has a degree in journalism and is passionate about science, technology and social innovation. Contact Adam, or follow him at @adamvrankulj