FBI launches $1 billion nationwide facial recognition system

b. brewer bbrewer at littledystopia.net
Sat Sep 8 13:31:27 PDT 2012



FBI launches $1 billion nationwide facial recognition system
By Sebastian Anthony on September 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm26 Comments

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The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 
billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In 
essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA 
records, voice samples, and other biometrics, that will help the FBI 
identify and catch criminals  but it is how this biometric data is 
captured, through a nationwide network of cameras and photo databases, 
that is raising the eyebrows of privacy advocates.

Until now, the FBI relied on IAFIS, a national fingerprint database that 
has long been due an overhaul. Over the last few months, the FBI has 
been pilot testing a facial recognition system  and soon, detectives 
will also be able to search the system for other biometrics such as DNA 
records and iris scans. In theory, this should result in much faster 
positive identifications of criminals and fewer unsolved cases.

According to New Scientist, facial recognition systems have reached the 
point where they can match a single face from a pool of 1.6 million 
mugshots/passport photos with 92% accuracy, in under 1.2 seconds [PDF]. 
In the case of automated, biometric border controls where your face and 
corresponding mugshot are well lit, the accuracy approaches 100%. 
Likewise, where DNA or iris records exist, its a very expedient way of 
accurately identifying suspects.

So far, so good  catching criminals faster and making less false 
arrests must be a good thing, right? Well, yes, but there are some 
important caveats that we must bear in mind. For a start, the pilot 
study has only used mugshots and driving license photos of known 
criminals  but the FBI hasnt guaranteed that this will always be the 
case. There may come a time when the NGI is filled with as many photos 
as possible, from as many sources as possible, of as many people as 
possible  criminal or otherwise. This might be as overt as parsing CCTV 
footage and collating every single face into a database; or maybe youre 
just unlucky and your face ends up in the system because youre in the 
background of a photo starring a known criminal.

Imagine if the NGI had full access to every driving license and passport 
photo in the country  and DNA records kept by doctors, and iris scans 
kept by businesses. The FBIs NGI, if the right checks and balances 
arent in place, could very easily become a tool that decimates civilian 
privacy and freedom. Time to invest in a hoodie, I think

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