Privacy fans, get ready to feel your blood pressure rise.
The FBI is planning to roll out an extensive new facial recognition system that includes a database of photos to identify Americans, regardless of criminal history, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The system, called Next Generation Identification, or NGI, could soon include facial rec information on as many as 100 million Americans. The FBI already maintains a database of about 100 million people’s fingerprints, as well as many retina scans and palm prints, and personal information like name, address, age and race.
According to Business Insider, the database will grow quickly. By 2015, the system will be able to query up to 52 million photos: 46 million criminal images, such as mugshots; 4.3 million "civil images" from other sources; and 215,000 photos from the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern.
NGI is already being used in several states, and many more will soon join in. According to privacy advocates like the EFF, the FBI is clearly overreaching the bounds of privacy.
According to the EFF:
[T]he FBI only ensures that “the candidate will be returned in the top 50 candidates” 85 percent of the time “when the true candidate exists in the gallery.”
It is unclear what happens when the “true candidate” does not exist in the gallery—does NGI still return possible matches? Could those people then be subject to criminal investigation for no other reason than that a computer thought their face was mathematically similar to a suspect’s? This doesn’t seem to matter much to the FBI—the Bureau notes that because “this is an investigative search and caveats will be prevalent on the return detailing that the [non-FBI] agency is responsible for determining the identity of the subject, there should be NO legal issues.”
We're interested to learn how the facial rec portion of NGI will work in reality. In the meantime, how do you feel about the FBI collecting and querying your facial recognition data? In today's age of dwindling privacy, does news like this still get under your skin?