Security

You might end up in the FBI’s face recognition database, even if you’re not a criminal

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Even if you haven’t committed a crime, you may soon end up in the FBI’s growing biometric database, the EFF claims.

News of this biometric database — a massive collection of finger prints, iris scans, palm prints, and face recognition data — first came to light in 2011. The program, named Next Generation Identification (NGI), allegedly contains “over 100 million individual records” and will have “52 million face images by 2015,” the EFF states.

This information surfaced as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed 10 months ago.

The FBI’s move to advance its fingerprint database isn’t surprising. Unfortunately, it appears the NGI program won’t be limited to criminals. By 2015, the FBI will reportedly include “4.3 million images taken for non-criminal purposes.”

In addition, the FBI may eventually collect photos whenever an employee submits to a background check. Traditionally, such data would end up in a civil database. However, the NGI initiative will allegedly bring criminal and civil databases together:

“Now every record—whether criminal or non—will have a “Universal Control Number” (UCN), and every search will be run against all records in the database.”

“This means that even if you have never been arrested for a crime, if your employer requires you to submit a photo as part of your background check, your face image could be searched—and you could be implicated as a criminal suspect—just by virtue of having that image in the non-criminal file.”

It’s unclear how such a database will be maintained — and what sort of NGI oversight already exists. In any case, this program amounts to yet another example of how easy it is for national security and privacy rights to clash. In light of recent mass surveillance leaks, this program will certainly upset privacy-minded Americans.