The FBI has begun installing state-of-the-art facial recognition technology across the country as part of an update to the national fingerprint database, Sara Reardon of the New Scientist reports.The agency’s $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will also include iris scans, DNA analysis and voice identification by 2014.
RT reports that as of July 18, 2012, the FBI said the NGI program “is on scope, on schedule, on cost, and 60 per cent deployed.”
Reardon notes that the best commercial algorithms can identify someone in a pool of 1.6 million mugshots about 92 per cent of the time, even if they aren’t looking at the camera. (There are ways to fool them.)
According to a FBI “Facial Recognition Initiatives Presentation” at the 2010 Biometrics Conference, the technology will be used for identifying fugitives, missing persons and unknown persons of interest; tracking subject movements to/from critical events; conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations (like Occupy Wall St. congregations); identifying subjects in public datasets (e.g. Facebook); and verifying mug shots against National Criminal Information centre (NCIC) records.
The system has privacy advocates very concerned about the “faces in the crowd” because anyone in public could be placed in a federal database or subjected to warrantless real-time surveillance.
The FBI already has facial recognition software installed at DMVs in at least 27 states, so the FBI can potentially match any citizen’s with their ID, licence or passport photos in real time.
“The combination of face recognition, social networks data and data mining can significantly undermine our current notions and expectations of privacy and anonymity,” Carnegie Mellon University professor Alessandro Acquisti told the subcommittee.
And the system could be easily be integrated with the National Security Agency’s domestic spying apparatus, which whistleblower William Binney said can track electronic activities—phone calls, emails, banking and travel records, social media—and map them to collect “all the attributes that any individual has” and build a profile based on that data.
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