Some versions of face-recognition software used today remain ineffective, as investigators found in the aftermath of the Boston bombings. But Cognitec claims its latest technology has a far higher accuracy rating—and is certainly more advanced than the earlier versions of face-recognition software—like the kind used at the Statue of Liberty back in 2002. (It is not clear whether the face-recognition technology remained in use at the statue after 2002.)
Liberty Island took such a severe battering during Sandy that it has stayed closed to the public ever since—thwarting the prospect of a pilot of the new software. But the statue, which attracts more than 3 million visitors annually according to estimates, is finally due to open again on July 4. In March, Statue of Liberty superintendent Dave Luchsinger told me that plans were underway to install an upgraded surveillance system in time for the reopening. "We are moving forward with the proposal that Total Recall has come up with," he said, adding that "[new] systems are going in, and I know they are state of the art." When it came to my questions about face recognition, though, things started to get murky. Was that particular project back on track? "We do work with Cognitec, but right now because of what happened with Sandy it put a lot of different pilots that we are doing on hold," Peter Millius, Total Recall's director of business development, said in a phone call. "It's still months away, and the facial recognition right now is not going to be part of this phase." Then, he put me hold and came back a few minutes later with a different position—insisting that the face-recognition project had in fact been "vetoed" by the Park Police and adding that I was "not authorized" to write about it.
That was weird, but it soon got weirder.