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The Government's High-Tech Plan For Identifying You Based on Your Tattoos

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A lower back tattoo.

The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology recently held a workshop reviewing the results of a challenge to develop systems that could indentify individuals based on their tattoos.


One in five Americans has a tattoo, and on Monday, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) held a workshop reviewing the results of a challenge organized by the agency aimed at developing systems that could identify an individual based on their tattoos.

The challenge was sponsored by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Biometric Center of Excellence and brought together researchers from academia and the private sector.

Several of the systems generated "hit rates well above 90 percent" in some of the simpler tests, such as basic tattoo detection and identification over time, according to NIST's Mei Ngan. However, other tests, such as matching sketches or computer graphics with a real tattoo, proved more challenging. Ngan says although such technologies could be used to help identify disaster victims, the primary use case for them is likely to be helping law enforcement track down criminals, who have tattoos at a higher rate than the general populace.

Ngan says tattoos would likely not be used as a primary biometric like a fingerprint, since more than one person can have a tattoo, but as a way of narrowing down a potential list of suspects.

From The Washington Post
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