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.
“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.