The FBI Wants To Hide Your Face
I used to think of the FBI as the good guys. Defenders of the law, and all that sort of stuff. Now it seems like just another politicized government agency, with their (metaphorical) guns aimed at the very laws they are sworn to uphold. Sometimes I even wonder if the KGB has been reincarnated as the FBI. The topic of today's article is one such occasion…
Wanted: YOU (or maybe just your face)
The FBI has access to 411.9 million photos of people’s faces, and uses facial recognition technology to rapidly scan them in search of “persons of interest.” In June, it was revealed that the Bureau has been hiding this fact from the public for years, in flagrant violation of federal law that requires its disclosure.
And that’s not the only law the Bureau has conveniently ignored, according to the General Accounting Office’s report to Congress on the FBI’s Next Generation Identification System (NGIS). (PDF)
Your face may well be among these digitized photos, for they include mug shots, passport and visa application photos, the Defense Department’s biometric database, fingerprints and photos of foreigners applying to become naturalized citizens or permanent residents. The database even includes driver’s license photos drawn from at least 16 States (the FBI won’t reveal exactly how many States are part of this scheme).
Your mugshot might be displayed on an FBI agent's computer screen right now. Or maybe it’s someone who only looks like you enough to confuse facial recognition software. Current facial recognition technologies are only “95 percent” accurate, according to Toby Rush, CEO of EyeVerify, which develops iris-recognition software. In a recent interview with The-Parallax.com, he added, “As a security mechanism, we need 99.998 percent accuracy.”
Errors in the NGIS could be very, very bad for you if that “someone” robs a bank or bombs a marathon. But the stakes don’t have to be nearly so high to ruin your day. Each year, thousands of Americans wrongfully lose job opportunities because of errors in the FBI’s fingerprint identification system that is used in many background checks. And facial recognition is not nearly as mature or accurate as fingerprint identification.
When the Law Becomes Lawless…
The FBI has not even attempted to verify the accuracy of the NGIS, despite another law requiring it to do so, the GAO investigation found. Furthermore, the FBI allows State and local law enforcement agencies to access NGIS data without verifying that those entities are using reliable technologies, violating yet another legal requirement.
Now the FBI has made a proposal to the Justice Department to exempt the NGIS from all provisions of The Privacy Act of 1974, not just the pesky transparency and due diligence parts. The Privacy Act, among other important protections, prohibits the government from creating databases about the political activities of its citizens. But the FBI’s proposal would allow it to do exactly that, and citizens could not take the Bureau to court. The Privacy Act also protects citizens’ right to know what data the government keeps on them and how it is used or shared, and our right to challenge the accuracy of such data and force its correction.
Caught redhanded in violation of multiple parts of the law, the nation’s top law enforcement agency’s response is, “Let’s just forget about the whole law, shall we?” (Perhaps they should grant themselves immunity.) The limitless arrogance of the FBI’s proposal seems designed to stun any opposition into immobility. But that isn’t going to work.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is all over the NGIS and the FBI’s proposal. The EFF joined dozens of other privacy and civil liberties watchdogs (and, oddly, Uber and Lyft, the ride-sharing companies) in successfully pressuring the Department of Justice (DoJ) to extend the period for public comments on the FBI’s proposal. You can find the latest information https://www.eff.org/foia/fbis-next-generation-identification-biometrics-database on the FBI's efforts to build and use biometric databases, and what the EFF is doing to shine light on the situation.
It's now up to the DoJ to hold the FBI accountable. Or not. We shall see. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 29 Sep 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- The FBI Wants To Hide Your Face (Posted: 29 Sep 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved