The FBI has just announced that it’s moving ahead with its new, one-billion dollar Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, a frighteningly extensive database of mug shots, DNA records, voice samples, iris scans, fingerprints and other metrics that the bureau will be able to use in its fight against crime.
The FBI announced this week that the massive database system it had been building for eight years, pulling together stores of biometric information on millions of people, is at “full operational capacity.”
The FBI insists it will only use photos of known criminals, and those who have previously been convicted, but that doesn’t guarantee that things will actually work this way. The fact they aren’t legally bound to restrict themselves to what is a relatively small demographic of people with criminal convictions means that the Bureau will be tempted at a later date to extend its database to include others, and not just from driving license and passport application photos, but also sources like CCTV footage.
It’s pretty frightening to think what might happen if NGI one day gains access to every bit of biometric data available; passports, driving licenses, DNA from doctors, iris scans from businesses etc. With no checks or balances in place, the NGI has the potential to trash the very concept of freedom and privacy as we know it.
Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “Although the FBI has said in these documents that it will not allow non-mug shot photos such as images from social networking sites to be saved from the system, there are no legal or even written FBI policy restrictions in place to prevent this from occurring.” The database is expected to include around 4.3 million images taken for noncriminal reasons by the end of the year.
Not only is it unclear where the images will come from, but Lynch says the FBI and Congress have failed to enact meaningful restrictions on who can access the data and how the data can be used.
Photos courtesy of Google.com