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The FBI grows its facial recognition database

The FBI has been building a pool for its facial recognition database. The extent of that file is now known due to the documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) made possible by their lawsuit based on the Freedom of Information Act. The NGI or Next Generation of Identification may contain one-third of the U.S. population on file with the FBI by 2015. This was posted on Ars technica today by Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Photo by Craig Barritt

The Next Generation Identification file contains over 100 million fingerprint files which has been comprised of many job related required fingerprints and not a crime related capture. This behemoth file has several types of biometric data. It may include palm prints, iris scans and facial recognition. FBI fingerprint files alone are kept completely separate so a criminal fingerprint data base does not pull the civilian data. The NGI is a different procedure and will pull the entire database.

NGI is linked to personal data of information from all pertinent details on record of financial information to immigration status. The database is accessed with other federal agencies and about 18,000 tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

The concern of Lynch is that your may be part of a criminal investigation only because your information and or NGI data is on file and available to review. You may be reviewed because there will be a Universal Control Number attached and it does not distinguish between criminal and non-criminal.

The 16 million in the database contained in the middle of 2013 includes 4.3 million images obtained for ‘non-criminal purposes.’ According to Lynch from the data received in the lawsuit deposition records there is the capability of processing 55,000 new photo records daily, which forecasts that 52 million facial records will be on file by 2015.

The FBI reports that by 2015, the NGI may include 46 million criminal images and 4.3 civil images. What becomes difficult is that there will be 215,000 images of RISC or Repository for Individuals of Special Concern. The risk lies in that there are no rules known how the collection of images are gathered, who has access to the database and what and who it impacts.

There is another file of 750,000 images from a ‘Special Population Cognizant’ (SPC) category, which may be related to gang activity or terrorist in a particular case or in a sequence in a set for investigation forecast for 2015. It is also estimated in the forecast that another 215,000 images relate to the ‘New Repositories’ category and receive a Universal Control Number along with the rest of the NGI records. These images will not be labeled between criminal and non-criminal so anyone maybe subject to review. This amounts to a large number of unexplained criteria and search availability to agencies across the U.S.

Google and Facebook have been viewed with caution as the issue of privacy lurks in the advancement and use of technology by these big ‘net’ companies. Their issues with privacy and the NSA, announcements of new features available on Facebook and from Google in its new Google Glass product raise concern on how to protect oneself from invasion from both government agencies and private companies.

There is an online campaign called 'Stop the Cyborgs' and encourages businesses to ban Google Glass over issues of surveillance and privacy. Are individuals' right to privacy threatened by unapproved recording on Google Glass? Eric Schiffer, chairman of and creator of a service called Anti-Glass states, 'technology should not advance to the detriment of the public.' Where is the line drawn for privacy before it expands to surveillance or government investigation?

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