Tag Archives: datamining

Will non-criminal mugshots of residents from your state be in new FBI database?

By SB Anderson

The FBI plans to launch by summer’s end a facial recognition system that “poses real threats to privacy for all Americans” and could include 4.3 million photos taken for non-criminal purposes within a year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports.

“NGI will allow law enforcement at all levels to search non-criminal and criminal face records at the same time. This means you could become a suspect in a criminal case merely because you applied for a job that required you to submit a photo with your background check.”
–EFF report

“The FBI’s massive biometric database that may hold records on as much as one third of the U.S. population,” the EFF said, citing documents it has received as part of a Freedom of Information Act legal fight. “The facial recognition component of this database poses real threats to privacy for all Americans.”

The 4.4 million non-crime-related images would be part of the “Next Generation Identification” system, which “builds on the FBI’s legacy fingerprint database—which already contains well over 100 million individual records—and has been designed to include multiple forms of biometric data, including palm prints and iris scans in addition to fingerprints and face recognition data.”

One source for those new images: Routine employer fingerprint checks. A copy of the fingerprints are already sent to the FBI’s non-civil database; a photo could not be added if employers ask that they be taken, EFF says. The issue: NGI would also mean first-ever searches of both the criminal and noncriminal databases.

“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.”

The graphic below shows the status, as of 2012, of FBI discussions with states for participating in NGI. “The FBI hopes to bring all states online with NGI by this year,” EFF said.

Participating states

SOURCE: Electronic Frontier Fondation

Fissures in support for the Surveillance State

By SB Anderson

Last week all but certainly will be looked back at as a watershed week in shifting support for the Surveillance State by not only U.S. citizens, but members of Congress.

For those who’ve been in eyes-half-open mode because it’s Summer and want to catch up, The New York Times today has a must-read on the politics and cross-party partnerships behind last week’s surprising oh-so-close vote in the House that would have killed funding for the National Security Administration’s telephone data collection, exposed by Edward Snowden.

Two quotes that stand out:

“There is a growing sense that things have really gone a-kilter here.”

“The time has come to stop it, and the way we stop it is to approve this amendment.”

The first, from U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who is helping craft a bill “to significantly rein in N.S.A. telephone surveillance,” the NYT story says.

The second is from someone who was a force behind the Patriot Act and who is helping Lofgren on that bill. — U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc. His very brief (and unexpected) remarks — seven sentences — before the House vote last week were seen as pivotal.

Govt Anti-Terror PoliciesMeantime, new research data shows the opinion shift among Americans. Almost half of those polled from July 17-21 said their “greater concern about government anti-terrorism policies is that they have gone too far in restricting the average person’s civil liberties,” Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported on Friday.

That was a 15-point jump since 2010, when the question was last asked. “This is the first time a plurality has expressed greater concern about civil liberties than security since the question was first asked in 2004.”

Nearly 3 in 5 of those adults surveyed — 56% — said courts aren’t providing the safety net needed for government data collection. “An even larger percentage (70%) believes that the government uses this data for purposes other than investigating terrorism,” Pew said.

Politically, a clear lean toward more support for civil liberties vs. national security since 2010 is pretty much across the board, as the chart below shows. Particularly noteworthy is the shift in the civil liberties v. national security view by Tea Party Republicans.

For the media, the public remains divided over how aggressive journalists should be in reporting on secret methods used to fight terrorism — 47% yes, 47% no. That’s the same as 2006. However, there has been a partisan shift, as Republicans now are much more supportive of an aggressive media role (+17 points), while Democrats have retreated (-14 points). See chart below.

In a column today, the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, whose release of Snowden’s inside information along with the Washington Post detonated the current NSA and civil liberties controversy, took note of the shift in the Venn diagram of civil liberties and national security that Pew’s survey revealed.

As I’ve repeatedly said, the only ones defending the NSA at this point are the party loyalists and institutional authoritarians in both parties. That’s enough for the moment to control Washington outcomes – as epitomized by the unholy trinity that saved the NSA in the House last week: Pelosi, John Bohener and the Obama White House – but it is clearly not enough to stem the rapidly changing tide of public opinion.

(Note: If you’re interested, Pew has details on how it conducted its survey).

Post examines growth/impact of state driver’s license image databases

By SB Anderson

Well worth a read this morning if you’re interested in the intersection of government, law enforcement and privacy and civil liberties issues: A detailed Washington Post report on what is effectively becoming a national database of individual photos available for law enforcement use.

The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver’s-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations . . .

The increasingly widespread deployment of the technology in the United States has helped police find murderers, bank robbers and drug dealers, many of whom leave behind images on surveillance videos or social-media sites that can be compared against official photo databases.

But law enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities.

Click on the image below to visit an interactive version on the Post site, which gives you information by state as you hover your cursor.


The NSA is building the country’s biggest spy center

By SB Anderson

Oh, and “watch what you say,” Wired suggests in this month’s cover story on a new NSA data center in Utah. 

“Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency.

“A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013.”

Full story

U.S. relaxes limits on use of data in terror analysis

By SB Anderson

(NYT) WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.

“Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center, which was created in 2004 to foster intelligence sharing and serve as a terrorism threat clearinghouse. The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said.

“The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat.”

Full story

The Data Minefield

By SB Anderson

The U.S. v. Antoine Jones cellphone tracking case now before the U.S. Supreme Court (see WSJ story below) is among a plethora of data-mining-related topics explored in a comprehensive new package being released this week b the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative. 

Paul Rosenzweig

In “The Data Minefield,” NSJI Carnegie Fellow Paul Rosenzweig   explores the ins and outs of data mining and provides insights and resources to help reporters better understand how it is done and what its implications are.

Roswnzweig, a lawyer, sat in on the U.S. v. Jones arguments before the Supreme Court this week.  He is a former first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security.  He is author of the forthcoming bookCyberwarfare: How Conflicts in Cyberspace are Challenging America and Changing the World (Praeger).