FBI sharing facial recognition software with police departments across America
Madison Ruppert — It is no secret that facial recognition technology is on the rise with amazing leaps forward in efficiency, nor is it a secret that the federal government maintains a centralized biometric database.
This program is so massive and coordinated that even governors have been overridden in the federal government’s quest to create a comprehensive database.
Now police departments across the entire United States will receive facial recognition software developed by none other than the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The software, known as “Universal Face Workstation software,” will be provided to police departments free of charge by the FBI under the expanding pilot program.
The software allows local law enforcement agencies to compare their photographs with those of the FBI’s database, which the FBI expects will contain at least 12 million photographs by 2014.
One of the many troubling aspects of this technology is the fact that the results are sent back to the querying state or local agency automatically without any human having to check the results.
This means that wildly inaccurate results could be returned to the local agency, which would not be anything new for facial recognition technology.
Michigan was the first American state to get brought into the FBI’s pilot project earlier this year while five other states have already signed up.
These states include Hawaii, New Mexico, Maryland, Ohio and South Carolina, while Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Tennessee have all expressed interest in participating in the FBI program.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Oregon might also be involved in the constantly ramping up Next Generation Identification (NGI) Facial Recognition Program.
The plans for the NGI are nothing short of shocking. One must realize that the federal government actually plans to include highly sensitive biometric and biographical data belonging to over 100 million Americans.
Some are already expressing concerns over the program, including U.S. Senator Al Franken, a Minnesota Democrat.
However, I wouldn’t be all too quick to praise Senator Franken given that he voted for S.1867, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 when it allowed for the indefinite detention of Americans, something which Obama is now fighting to keep.
That being said, Franken did reverse his stance and eventually vote against the final language of the NDAA, but I am quite skeptical of his trustworthiness. This might be a case of looking a gift horse in the mouth but I encourage a healthy distrust of our so-called representatives even when they appear to be working for the interests of the American people.
“Facial recognition creates acute privacy concerns that fingerprints do not,” Franken rightly stated at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, according to AllGov.
“Once someone has your faceprint, they can get your name, they can find your social networking account and they can find and track you in the street, in the stores you visit, the government buildings you enter, and the photos your friends post online,” Franken added.
I’m quite grateful Franken brought up the social networking aspect of this issue in his statement. With Facebook’s acquisition of Face.com, the Israeli facial recognition firm, the future of facial recognition in social networking is looking quite bright indeed, at least for those who are on the winning side of the equation.
Franken also expressed concerns that the FBI’s software “could be abused to not only identify protesters at political events and rallies, but to target them for selective jailing and prosecution, stifling their First Amendment rights.”
This is far from a misplaced concern given that we saw Occupy Wall Street protesters being illegally pressured into submitting to iris scans, which is just another biometric tool in the FBI’s arsenal.
The troubling alacrity with which this technology is being spread to local agencies across the United States appears to just be increasing and unless the American people actually start expressing some concern over this, I seriously doubt it will slow down any time soon.
*This article originally appeared on End the Lie