An open letter to:-


EC Forrester


St Neots Community College

Barford Road
St Neots
Cambridgeshire PE19 2SH


12 January 2009


Dear Mr Forrester

Facial recognition biometrics trial at St Neots

According to the Daily Mail [1], St Neots are testing the use of facial recognition technology to determine which pupils are on the premises.

The business case in favour of using biometrics depends on the reliability of that technology.

We all have confidence in the expert use of fingerprinting by the police, and in the forensic use of DNA to identify people. Quite rightly. Traditional fingerprinting and DNA work. But that is not the technology being tested at St Neots. Biometrics based on facial geometry have a long history of not working [2].

Historically, you should expect this trial to fail a subject currently being pursued with the Home Office Scientific Development Branch [3]. Typically, about 30% of people cannot be recognised by systems using facial geometry. That is on the same day that they are registered/enrolled into the system. Two months later, typically, facial geometry systems fail to recognise about 60% of people [4]. It is important to run your trial for at least three months.

As an early adopter of the technology in the education sector, St Neots may be offered reduced rates for acquisition, installation, training and support. But if the equipment fails to recognise 60% of students after the Easter holiday, then the business case fails at any price.

Please be sceptical, Mr Forrester.

Yours sincerely

David Moss