WALK-BACK TECHNOLOGYDusting for ﬁngerprints and tracking digitalfootprints
In January of 2010 Dubai security consultants ran a series of image-sequences captured by CCTV and phone calls through advanced computer algorithms to connect a trail of digital dots which conﬁrmed that senior Hamas military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh had notdied not of natural causes in his hotel suite but was assassinated by a large team of covertoperatives. A new category of image-analysis has emerged which is generally referred to as“walk-back technology”. Walk-back is a recombinant technology that works primarily withadvanced facial recognition software and biometrics in combination with data-tracking toidentify and plot the movement trajectories of multiple entities within differentiated spacesover time, their points of crossover, convergence and dispersion in order to play back and schematise a set of actions in relation to a chain of events.
In 1910 French physician Edmond Locard convinced the police to let him set up theﬁrst forensic laboratory in the garret above the Palais de Justice de Lyon. He calledit “Le Laboratoire de Police Scientiﬁque”. Locard had studied law at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Lyon and it was there that he met and collaborated with pioneeringFrench criminologist Alexandre Lacassagne. Together they laid the groundwork for anew branch of science in service to the courts that advocated the application of scien-tiﬁc methods and deductive logic to criminal investigation and identiﬁcation. DuringWorld War I Locard applied his skills in ﬁbre and bloodstain analysis to aid the FrenchSecret Service in pinpointing the locations in which soldiers and prisoners had died.By 1918 Locard had developed a 12-point system of ﬁngerprint identiﬁcation and writ-ten a seven-volume work,
Traité de Criminalistique
. The development of a standardisedsystem for the maintenance of criminal records had, until this time, relied heavily upon judicial photography (the documentation of facial features) in combination with anthro-pometry (the measurement of the body). Both of these methods were based on the belief that deviance manifested itself as a physical trait that could be quantiﬁed and cataloguedin order to produce an archive of criminal typologies.
While the scientiﬁc basis of these techniques would soon be called into question and ultimately dismissed, anatomi-cal measurement in relationship to imaging technologies returns as an investigative toolwith the emergence of biometric face-recognition software in the late twentieth century(Kember). But it was Locard’s ﬁngerprinting technology that ﬁrst provided the muchsought-after scientiﬁc foundation for criminal detection and identiﬁcation, transformingad hoc police practices into the modern and rational science of criminology.
, 2013Vol. 6, No. 1, 159–167, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17540763.2013.788849© 2013 Taylor & Francis