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Missing persons NGO alliance kicks off global facial recognition initiative

Missing persons NGO alliance kicks off global facial recognition initiative

A new alliance of non-profit organizations dedicated to finding missing persons is planning an innovative use of facial recognition to find people across Europe and Latin America.

The International Network of Associations of Disappeared Persons (RIAPD) wants to create a network of global volunteers who would cross-check a database of missing persons with images stored on their smartphones.

According to RIAPD, citizens who want to involve themselves in the search will join a Google Photos album containing images of disappeared persons. They can then use the facial recognition system natively installed on their smartphones to detect if a missing person happens to appear in their photo albums.

The RIAPD alliance was launched in July by nine NGOs from Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru. Over the next two years, RIAPD will be coordinated by the Spain-based organization called SOSDesaparecidos which first launched the facial recognition initiative in March.

“We were looking for a simple solution so that people can collaborate with little effort and so that any association in the world can replicate the same method and help us in international disappearances,” president of SOSDesaparecidos, Joaquín Amills told Spanish investigative journalism outlet Elcierre Digital.

Starting in September, other organizations from the European Union will be joining the alliance. The organization aims to share digital tools and work methodologies as well as promote international cooperation, says Amills, adding that the project will maintain the privacy of volunteers.

“RIAPD is not only a tool for disappeared persons and their families, but also a framework for collaboration with different police forces and government authorities of each country,” says Amills.

Biometric systems to either identify unclaimed bodies or missing persons are in use in many countries including South Africa, Nepal, Pakistan and Turkey. Last month, authorities in Mexico said they have been using an electoral biometrics database to identify thousands of missing persons over the past years.

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