The NSA is intercepting images of everyday people to the tune of millions a day to use in their facial recognition program. You may already be included in this global herding of images, as no one has any idea if their photos are among the NSA arsenal.
The NSA's collection methods and use of these pictures came to light after the leaking of top secret documents, reports the Raw Story on June 1. Where are the large quantities of the NSA pictures coming from? It appears that each time you post a picture on one of the social network websites you run the risk of having that picture becoming part of this targeted facial recognition program.
The documents were provided by Edward Snowden, who is a fugitive and a former U.S. Intelligence analyst. These documents show that over the past four years the NSA has had an increasing reliance on the facial recognition technology.
These documents cite the NSA as using new software to exploit a flood of images that are grabbed from emails, social media posts and video conferences that the NSA intercepts. Any type of online communication appears to be considered part of a crop from which they may harvest these images from.
The NSA believes that the latest advances in this facial recognition analysis can "revolutionize" the way intelligence targets are found by the agency. A 2010 document states:
“It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information” that can help “implement precision targeting.”
Since the time that Snowdon first revealed these documents, which was back in June of 2013, the NSA and the scope of their electronic surveillance program has been at the center of controversy. It is not clear on how many people worldwide have their images as part of this program.
According to Yahoo News, it is also not know how many American images are entered into this facial recognition program. The leaked documents state that the NSA intercepts "millions of images per day," which includes 55,000 "facial recognition quality images."
The U.S. privacy and U.S. surveillance laws do not provide specific protections for facial images, so it looks as if any image available online is fair game for the NSA.
This is not something that many Americans want to hear as it evokes the feeling that the government continues with their invasion of privacy on everyday U.S. citizens. Although some might argue that if this helps find terrorists then what is the harm of having your picture part of this program. What is your take on having your images ripe for the taking by the NSA?