Different branches of the U.S. government have been hard at work compiling vast amounts of data to build different biometric facial recognition databases. And according to The Week, these efforts violate Americans’ privacy and civil liberties.
The Department of Homeland Security is working on a new database called HART, which is short for The Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology. HART is an all-encompassing database. For each person in the database, HART has biometric face and voice data, as well as information on any tattoos, scars, “physical descriptors,” and even the person’s DNA. Currently, HART reportedly has over 500 million people in the database, which include U.S. citizens but also foreigners. HART is expected to be fully operational by 2021, but it will be rolled out as early as next year. By the following year, HART is expected to have iris and facial matching abilities.
And that’s not all. The HART database will also compile information on a person’s government IDs, birthday, and more. The information will supposedly be available and shared with local, state, and federal authorities. EFF added that the information could also be shared with foreign governments as well.
HART will also have information on people’s “relationship patterns” and officer “encounters,” political and religious affiliations, and house information on one’s relations with friends and family.
Another large database is being maintained by the FBI, which has what it calls the NGI, which is short for Next Generation Identification. NGI has been available since 2015 and is a vast database that includes information on a whopping one-third of Americans.
Meanwhile, Amazon is selling its facial recognition software called Rekognition to local police departments. Rekognition gives police access to “tens of millions” of faces that Amazon has, which is then cross-referenced with surveillance footage from crime scenes.
Orlando Police have taken Amazon up on their offer, and have been testing its capabilities since May, according to NPR. Surveillance cameras can be set up to notify authorities when a “person of interest” is detected, and can identify people in cars through traffic cameras. Orlando Police said that it “is not using the technology in an investigative capacity or in any public spaces at this time,” although it’s unknown whether it will expand its use later on.
Many argue that these databases infringe on Americans’ rights, specifically the First Amendment. The facial scanning technology also is being used on innocent people who have not committed any crime. Also, some assert that a vast database like HART can be used to “track all people in public places, without their knowledge.”