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New international standard covers forensic biometrics in lab and field environments

Police use increasing but real-life scenarios often yield poor quality images
New international standard covers forensic biometrics in lab and field environments

A lunch talk by the European Association for Biometrics (EAB) untangles the forthcoming Forensic Sciences standard ISO/IEC 21043, in particular its implications for forensic biometrics.

In his presentation on the standard, Prof. Dr. Didier Meuwly of the University of Twente in the Netherlands says new ISO/IEC 21043, which is at the draft international standard (DIS) stage, has five parts, covering terms and definitions, recovery of trace biometrics, analysis, interpretation and reporting.

There are three existing international standards for forensics services providers, but Meuwly, chair of Forensic Biometrics for University of Twente, says they lack specificity. The new standard covers “the methodological and technical aspects, independently of the forensic discipline,” to provide guidance and requirements for field and laboratory-based forensics processes, meaning it applies to all forensic disciplines including forensic biometrics. Meuwly says it was “quite a challenge to provide requirements and recommendations that fit both for field use and crime scene situations as well as for laboratory activities.”

ISO’s website has a sample of the ISO/IEC 21043 DIS.

Researchers try to improve face biometrics with neural image enhancement

As noted in a new paper from University of California, Berkeley entitled “An Investigation into the Impact of AI-Powered Image Enhancement on Forensic Facial Recognition,” many real-world forensic settings yield “low-quality and low-resolution images that often confound even state-of-the art facial recognition.” The paper investigates “if and when advances in neural-based image enhancement and restoration can be used to restore degraded images while preserving facial identity for use in forensic facial recognition.”

Testing the impacts of super-resolution and motion/optical de-blurring on forensic facial recognition, the study used two large data sets of diverse facial images, the FaceNet and ArcFace facial recognition systems, and 12 different image enhancement methods based on GAN and diffusion techniques.

Super-resolution involves sampling a low-resolution image at a higher resolution to restore detail to the original. In deblurring, optical or motion blur is removed from an image. Researchers tested data sets including both facial photographs and synthetically generated faces.

In the end, they are not bullish on the results, but not hopeless, either. “We find that although face image restoration can effectively remove facial noise and blurring effects, the restored images do not significantly improve the recognition performance of the face recognition systems,” says the paper. Image restoration transformed faces or hallucinated made-up features too often to be reliable.

While the researchers conclude that “in current conditions, the improvement in face image restoration on the recognition performance of face recognition systems is limited, they believe it “still has a positive role in the application of forensic human image identification.”

UK report notes mobile biometrics upgrades for police 

The UK Home Office has published its Forensic Information Databases annual report 2022 to 2023. A letter from B.D. Snuggs KPM, deputy chief constable for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and chair of the Forensic Information Databases Strategy Board, says the report highlights the “continued value of fingerprints and DNA in solving crimes and the part these biometrics play in bringing offenders to justice, keeping the public safe and preventing harm to potential future victims.”

The report includes info on the Home Office Biometrics Programme (HOB)’s delivery of further improvements in biometrics matching and identification services at the national level, focused on fingerprints, DNA, and facial biometrics. “Key activities for fingerprints in 2022/23 include the progression of the replacement platform which hosts the algorithms utilized for biometric matching in fingerprint (and face) biometrics, and an enhanced mobile biometric capability for police forces,” it says.

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