The FBI has tracked fingerprints for years. With today's technology, they also track voice recognition in some cases, but next year they plan to create a broad tattoo database that also includes other identifying marks such as scars and birthmarks.
Tracking tattoos is not new
At first, some think the idea of a tattoo data base is another way for the government to invade our space, but tracking tattoos is nothing new. In a report filed by FOX 40 on February 8, they pointed to a news segment they run each week called Crime Alert. This segment offers information on criminals in the Sacramento area the police are looking for. Along with photos and other pertinent information there is a "distinctive marks" section that lists details including any tattoos.
"This information is being put together locally when the criminal is booked into jail – and that’s where the tracking begins." – FOX 40
Back in July of 2012, the FBI's Biometric Center of Excellence sent out a request to police agencies for information "related to any current databases containing tattoo/symbol images, their possible meanings, gang affiliations, terrorist groups or other criminal organizations."
What the FBI hopes to do with tattoo information
The goal of the FBI in creating a broad tattoo database is actually part of a larger FBI collection of biometric information for its Next Generation Identification Program. Tattoos are just one aspect of this growing collection of personal information. They also plan to improve facial recognition technology and collect palm prints and iris scans. The overall goal is to have a searchable database of distinctive identifying marks including tattoos, birthmarks, and scars by 2014.
According to the federal government, the interest in tattoos is only for investigative and information purposes. Some people aren't comfortable with the government tracking tattoos, but Eric Phillips, an FBI management-and-program analyst, told the Orlando Sentinel that "law enforcement's ability to properly decipher the iconography of tattoos would benefit certain civilians, too."