FBI $1B Facial Recognition Program Launches in 2014

Dennis Faas's picture

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is going ahead with a $1 billion program that will help it find persons of interest more rapidly. Between now and 2014 the money will be used to upgrade the FBI's facial recognition system and national fingerprint database.

Officially, the upgrading program is called "Next Generation Identification" (NGI).

The idea has been percolating for at least two years. In 2010, FBI representative Richard Vorder Bruegge first discussed the bureau's desire to use facial recognition technology to "identify subjects in public datasets."

Bruegge suggested the FBI might be able to "conduct automated surveillance at lookout locations." (Source: cnet.com)

Facial Recognition Cameras on Interstate Highways

It's expected that the NGI program will involve placing automated "lookout locations" on major interstate highways and in high-density urban areas. There, high-tech camera systems will attempt to identify faces in cars and crowds.

The $1 billion will also help improve the FBI's fingerprint identification system. The FBI will also reportedly roll out a national palm print program.

Eventually, observers expect the FBI's NGI program will try to track people by their voices, not just their prints and faces.

NGI Appalls Privacy Groups

U.S. privacy groups are already gearing up to oppose the plan, suggesting the government could use the program to track all civilians, not just those wanted by police.

"It is impossible to tell exactly how the FBI plans to acquire and use facial recognition data now and in the future," said Jennifer Lynch, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a group that lobbies for privacy protection.

"However, given the information in these new documents and the FBI's broad goals for face recognition data, the time is right for laws that limit face recognition data collection." (Source: cnet.com)

The FBI has attempted to allay these fears by arguing that NGI will not violate the U.S. Privacy Act. (Source: engadget.com)

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