Complex problem solving: Identity matching based on social contextual information

Jennifer J. Xu, G. Alan Wang, Jiexun Li, Michael Chau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Complex problems like drug crimes often involve a large number of variables interacting with each other. A complex problem may be solved by breaking it into parts (i.e., sub-problems), which can be tackled more easily. The identity matching problem, for example, is a part of the problem of drug and other types of crimes. It is often encountered during crime investigations when a single criminal is represented by multiple identity records in law enforcement databases. Because of the discrepancies among these records, a single criminal may appear to be different people. Following Enid Mumford's three-stage problem solving framework, we design a new method to address the problem of criminal identity matching for fighting drug-related crimes. Traditionally, the complexity of criminal identity matching was reduced by treating criminals as isolated individuals who maintain certain personal identities. In this research, we recognize the intrinsic complexity of the problem and treat criminals as interrelated rather than isolated individuals. In other words, we take into consideration of the social relationships between criminals during the matching process. We study not only the personal identities but also the social identities of criminals. Evaluation results were quite encouraging and showed that combining social features with personal features could improve the performance of criminal identity matching. In particular, the social features become more useful when data contain many missing values for personal attributes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-545
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of the Association of Information Systems
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Complex problems
  • Design science
  • Identity matching
  • Social contextual information

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications


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