FBI’s New Facial Recognition System: Breach Of Rights Or National Security?

The FBI has launched a fully operational biometric identification system that includes facial recognition technology in over 18,000 bureaus across the country.

The new facial recognition database was announced yesterday, and will use the Next Generation Identification system (NGI) by compiling more than 8 million mug shots from across the country. The facial recognition system “will provide the nation’s law enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities,” the FBI press release said.

This program was conceived in February 2011 with the help of the company MorphoTrust, which contains 244 million images. Known fingerprints, over 100 million, are also being added to the program.

According to the Daily Mail, FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers in June, “We’re piloting the use of mug shots, along with our fingerprint database, to see if we can find bad guys by matching pictures with mug shots.”

Embedded with the program is a feature known as Rap Back, which allows the FBI to receive status notifications of any specific individual, including a detailed criminal history record. Another feature is the Interstate Photo System (IPS), which will allow the FBI to systematically search photographs of individuals who are associated with criminal identities. By 2015, IPS will be able to trace over 52 million people, including innocent citizens.

The FBI has also been in the news recently in regard to the brutal murders of two American journalists by ISIS. In an earlier report from The Inquisitr, the FBI is closing in on the terrorist known as “Jihadi John,” who is supposedly the masked executioner.

The FBI’s new biometric identification system has many privacy groups upset and worried. “The groups say it’s another step taken in the direction of becoming a surveillance state, especially since the system will mix criminal mug shots with non-criminal faces from employment records and background check databases,” The Verge reports.

Al Jazeera America reports, “Edward Snowden said in June that the National Security Agency had pulled in millions of images to aid its own facial recognition program.”

Comey admitted to lawmakers that he didn’t know where pictures in the database were coming from.

“I think there is some circumstances in which when states send us records, they’ll send us pictures of people who are getting special driving licenses to transport children or explosive materials or something–but as I understand it, those are not part of the searchable Next Generation Identification database.”

It’s widely debated whether this new facial recognition system is a breach of rights or a national security measure that will be a great help.

[Image via AP]

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