Mugshot Recognition? There’s An App For That

Among the many fascinating things that appear in the Simple Justice mailbag every day, aside from the many requests for pro bono representation of your “worst travesty of justice ever” because the only evidence against you is seven eyewitnesses, four of which come from priests, one of whom baptized you, high-definition video taken from three angles, and your signed and written confession taken in the presence of counsel (that thief who stole all your money), are solicitations to check out the latest, greatest  start-up concept ever. How cool is that?

One arrived yesterday from a company called Jailbase. Yes, I misread it the first time too, but in a fit of twitchy fingers, opened it and found this:


Hello, we are developing a mugshot mobile app that will allow you to identify people against county jail mugshots. We thought your users would be interested.

Well, yes, I believe my “users” would be interested. A link to a  press release was included.



While researching the technology, which has been around for multiple decades, JailBase noted that facial recognition technology has previously been primarily used by government and large corporations. Given a photo, it allows the user to search for similar faces in other photos. Recent advancements in the technology has led it to be more accurate and affordable, allowing JailBase to bring this technology to the public in the form of a mobile app to match people’s photos with police mug shots.


JailBase runs a website that collects 1000′s of mugshots a day from county jails. These mug shots are considered public record. Currently, users of the website can search by name for people they know that might have been arrested, then sign up for arrest notifications. JailBase will be adding the ability to search for arrested individuals by face. The public will be able to take a photo of someone using their mobile phone and instantly see possible mug shot matches.

Isn’t that special!?! Just point and click and the facial recognition technology, some of the most dubiously unreliable technology around, will let you know if the guy in front of you at the Seven 11 is a murderer. What could possibly go wrong?

Aside from the fact that mugshots are taken of people arrested, not convicted, and aside from the enormously grave possibility that the information returned is just mind-numblingly wrong, how much fun would it be to be able to use your iPhone to get the dirt on your closest friends? 

Got a daughter? Find out if her date is a rapist! Got a young child? Find out if his teacher is a pedophile!  Got it wrong? Who cares?  Better safe than sorry, right?

But the email wasn’t just to announce another really cool app for your iPhone.  Jailbase (oops, I did it again) wants to crowdsource its funding, no doubt because it can’t find an angel or venture capitalist willing to defend the million lawsuits it will face.

So think this is the coolest thing ever and really want to get a piece of the action?



With the development of a working prototype to give people the ability to use a photo of a person to find out if they have an arrest record, JailBase has launched a crowd funding campaign to finance the completion of the project, which they hope to achieve by March 2013. People who give to the campaign will have the opportunity to exchange their donation for rewards, including a full version of the mobile app once it is released.

Key words:  Donations. Rewards. Oh yes, this is a charitable cause, toying with people’s lives by spreading false accusations and hatred.  But if it saves one child, or better still, makes a dinner party really fun, isn’t it worth it?

And if you give to the cause, and give large, you can be the first on your block to know which of your neighbors bears a passing resemblance to a guy who drove drunk in Peoria. How could you possibly pass up this chance to be the envy of all your friends, the go-to guy when it comes to figuring out how many people around you are evil, dangerous, criminals?  Or not.




5 comments on “Mugshot Recognition? There’s An App For That

  1. Dismoun

    I don’t think you need an app to know that the guy ahead of you in line at the 7-11 is a murderer.

    This is a laughable and horrible idea all rolled into one.

  2. ShelbyC

    This is the information age. As information becomes easier and easier to disseminate, it will become harder and harder to keep people ignorant of facts we don’t wish them to know. Hopefully we handle the change gracefully.

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