Homeland Security Report: Fresno Airport Breaks Ground With Pelco’s Face ID SystemNote: In conjunc

CLOVIS, Calif.—Fresno Yosemite Int’l Airport may not have as much traffic in one day as New York’s JFK or Los Angeles Int’l Airport. But the traffic it does receive passes through the most sophisticated and most talked about electronic security system currently available in operation in the United States.

CCTV maker Pelco Inc. chose Fresno’s airport as the test site for its PelcoMATCH facial-recognition system, which contains hardware by Pelco and software developed by Viisage,, a Massachusetts-based biometrics manufacturer. The system became operational on Oct. 26, 2001.

“This is the only actual facial-recognition system installed in the United States,” says Ron Cadle, vice president of materials and executive leader for this project. The company choose Fresno airport because of its proximity to company offices.

Cadle says before the system was in place, the airport was equipped with a Pelco matrix switcher, monitors, VCRs and DVRs, along with security guards. Now as the airport’s passengers walk through the metal detector, their faces are screened, analyzed and compared against a database of suspect individuals. The airport serves 1.2 million passengers per year and offers 46 flights daily on seven airlines.

The company is still fine-tuning the system and expects to put it on the market this month through its distributors and dealers. Although the donated system is worth $60,000, Cadle says Pelco hasn’t established a price range until it knows how much hardware will be needed.

“We have not had any positive matches as far as terrorists,” Cadle says. “We’ve had three false positive matches. Two of those people were Pelco employees.”

However, these events point out the kinks with facial recognition, which caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union. The nonprofit organization in November sent a letter to the city of Fresno demanding that the technology be shut down. “The probability of success [in capturing terrorists] is very, very low,” says Barry Steinhardt, the ACLU’s national associate director, in a Los Angeles Times article. “The probability of invading people’s privacy is very, very high.”

In response to the ACLU’s letter, the city held a press conference Nov. 21 at the airport to discuss the system. The ACLU was also invited, Cadle says, but a representative did not show up. “The ACLU has a right to evaluate a facial recognition system,” Cadle says. “We’ll let the public judge the system. We pretty much diffused the ACLU’s letter. We’re very neutral.”

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