I Was Wrong, Unfortunately

Right after the Patriots’ Day bombing I predicted the culprits would be caught through the use of facial recognition software.

Here’s what I wrote

There is no doubt the finish line for the Boston Marathon will produces hours, maybe days, of video. In the past that would have presented a daunting task. No more. Beefy computers will ingest that data and ask for more!

The video was there–hours and hours of it, along with thousands of stills. All we had to do now was wait for the AI to do its thing. That’s what I thought. Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis thought so too.

We were all wrong.

Davis said he was told that facial-recognition software did not identify the men in the ball caps. The technology came up empty even though both Tsarnaevs’ images exist in official databases: Dzhokhar had a Massachusetts driver’s license; the brothers had legally immigrated; and Tamerlan had been the subject of some FBI investigation.

The best tip actually came from a hospitalized man who’d lost both legs in the explosion. He was standing next to the bomb. He saw who’d placed it at his feet.

The witness, Jeffrey Bauman, couldn’t speak, so he wrote:

“Bag. Saw the guy, looked right at me.”

Bauman’s revelation was major breakthrough and a large part of why the FBI was able to distribute photographs of the Tsarnaev Brothers on Thursday.

But the photographs were not enough. They had faces, not names.

The FBI’s decision to release the photos was the right one. Where computers had failed, humans succeeded. It was the public who identified Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

We live in a surveillance society. Our government has access, often easy access, to the smallest details of our lives. We are monitored by armies of cameras, public and private. I find all this spying troubling and have often wondered if it’s really legal?

We are told it’s for our good… our security. Yes, it might be invasive from time-to-time, but only inadvertently.

Now it looks like all this monitoring can’t do what it was bought to do! It was sold on a falsehood. The monitoring goes on.