October 20, 2011
In just a few months, it will be a whole lot easier for the US government to track and and identify Americans. Nextgov reports that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is soon to launch a new facial recognition service that allows law enforcement agencies to run pictures of the face of a suspect through an advanced database system, and rapidly discover their identities.
The system, which is part of a $1 billion overhaul of the agency’s fingerprint database, is said to utilize various “biometric markers” to identify suspects, including iris scans and facial point recognition. The service can also identify suspects by comparing and matching voice samples and other collected data.
Under the current FBI system, law enforcement officers have to know the name of an individual in order to pull up his or her mug shots and other information from the agency’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). But under the new system, all officers have to do is input a photo of a suspect, and the system will automatically pull up a list of potential matches within just a few minutes.
“The idea was to be able to plug and play with these identifiers and biometrics,” said Thomas E. Bush III, former assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division, and one of the developers of the Next-Generation Identification (NGI) system. He and others hope the new system will encourage more local law enforcement officials to submit suspects’ profiles and information to the FBI.
The FBI has refused to identify the creator or vendor of the NGI facial recognition software, but its announcement comes curiously around the same time that social networking giant Facebook has launched its own facial recognition system.
Back in June, German officials actually threatened to sue Facebook for implementing the system, which is capable of identifying individuals in user photos, and automatically “tagging” them (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technolog…).
“Any database of personal identity information is bound to have mistakes,” said Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who has expressed concerns about the new FBI system. “The federal government is using local cops to create a massive surveillance system.”
And that is precisely where such a system is headed. If the US government is able to maintain an accurate and up-to-date database of millions of Americans, it will be able to track and monitor their movement and activity in a revolutionary new way. It is the slippery slope of tyranny at work, and one that will be difficult to undo once established.
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This article was posted: Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 3:00 am