In a time when we are fighting for privacy rights and adherence to the Bill of Rights and to the Constitution, this administration, and its agencies, are pressing forward no matter what we think. Facial recognition is coming to a city near you…whether you like it or not…whether it violates your rights or not.
Recently-released documents show that the FBI has been working since late 2011 with four states—Michigan, Hawaii, Maryland, and possibly Oregon—to ramp up the Next Generation Identification (NGI) Facial Recognition Program. When the program is fully deployed in 2014, the FBI expects its facial recognition database will contain at least 12 million “searchable frontal photos.”(p. 6)
The documents, which the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) obtained from a recent meeting of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board,1 shed new light on the FBI’s plans for NGI—the Bureau’s massive biometrics database that combines fingerprints, iris scans, palm prints, facial recognition and extensive biographical data collected from over 100 million Americans.
The Advisory Board documents show that FBI’s database of facial images will provide search results automatically (the system won’t need to rely on a human to check the results before forwarding them to the state or local agency) and that the FBI is developing “Universal Face Workstation software” to allow states that don’t have their own “Face/Photo search capabilities” to search through the FBI’s images.
After we read through the Advisory Board documents, we quickly sent Open Records requests to several of the states involved in the pilot program. The documents we received from Maryland and Hawaii further flesh out the story. For example, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Hawaii and the FBI shows that the government is building NGI to “permit photo submissions independent of arrests.” This is a problem because, the FBI has stated it wants to use its facial recognition system to “identify subjects in public datasets” and “conduct automated surveillance at lookout locations” (p.5). This suggests the FBI wants to be able to search and identify people in photos of crowds and in pictures posted on social media sites—even if the people in those photos haven’t been arrested for or even suspected of a crime. The FBI may also want to incorporate those crowd or social media photos into its face recognition database. (more)
This effort means that the Orwellian picture of Big Brother is well on its way to becoming a reality.
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