Facial recognition wouldn't have prevented the murders of two WDBJ reporters

Security vendor uses tragic murders as promotional tool for new product

wdbj memorial facebook
Credit: WDBJ / Facebook

On Wednesday, journalists across the country were heartbroken as news that two of their peers were murdered by a former co-worker. The incident happened during a live TV broadcast by WDBJ, shocking thousands of people who tuned-in to see a report on tourism.

Alison Parker, a rising star with a passion for helping child abuse victims, and cameraman Adam Ward, a talented photojournalist who loved sports, were only doing their jobs when they were gunned down by a former co-worker, who shall not be named. Vicki Gardner, a chamber of commerce executive, was also shot, and is listed as in good condition. She too, was only doing her job when the day turned into a nightmare.

It's hard to describe the level of horror the videos of the event portray.

One video, which is the live broadcast, and one other taken by the shooter as he committed the disgusting acts, will forever be etched into the minds of those who've seen them.

On Thursday, as the team at WDBJ attempted to recover and move forward with reporting the news, Blue Line Technology – a company based in St. Louis, Mo. – was promoting a new facial recognition product.

"Headquartered in St. Louis, MO, Blue Line Technology was launched by retired law enforcement officers to be an industry leader in both threat detection and access control. Their landmark product, First Line Facial Recognition, uses state-of-the-art technology to monitor, detect and alert users when a threat or unknown subject’s face is captured by the system."

The following is from the pitch their PR agency sent:

"I sent you this news release last week, and with the recent events concerning the Virginia TV shooting, threat detection is more critical than ever. Would you be interested in an interview with one of the experts at Blue Line Technology to talk about the latest developments in facial recognition technology?

"Here’s a link to short video demonstrating the facial recognition system that they just introduced. With Corporate security a top priority, it’s important for businesses to know there are real solutions for threat detection and prevention."

The fact that Blue Line is using this murder as a pitching point, pushing a press release that promotes First Line Facial Recognition Software, should outrage any journalist who got it; these were our peers they're trying to capitalize on. But, the reality is that there's no context where a pitch such as this would ever be appropriate.

But it's worse, this pitch was delivered a day after the company Tweeted the following:

blueline tweet1

Shortly after the pitch was sent, the company Tweeted a statement that mirrors the tone of the pitch itself:

blueline tweet3

In the press release that was sent by Blue Line's PR team, Paul Brauss, CEO, stated:

"There are many times that threats are made against specific organizations. When this occurs, we can set up our system to recognize the face of the person who made the threat and deny access to a building where an incident could potentially take place. It’s a practice in preventative policing and will save innocent lives."

Again, not only is this company using the tragic murders of two journalists as a promotional tool, but the concept of the product they're promoting wouldn't have helped at all.

The shooter of Alison and Adam, who also shot the person they were interviewing, had left the company two years prior to the shooting.

They were in an open area doing a live remote broadcast; so there's nothing Blue Line's product could've done to stop this. To state otherwise, even to suggest it, is false. It's using a tragedy as a means to sell something.

Physical security is important, and facial recognition has been a solid tool for law enforcement and loss prevention over the years.

However, in this reporter's opinion, if you're looking for facial recognition technology, there are other vendors in the market space to deal with. Some that come to mind are Technest, Neven Vision, and Herta Security.

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