FBI launches facial recognition project

As part of an update to the national fingerprint database, the FBI has begun rolling out facial recognition to identify criminals. It will form part of the bureau’s long-awaited, $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) program, which will also add biometrics such as iris scans, DNA analysis, and voice identification to the toolkit. A handful of states began uploading their photos as part of a pilot program this February and it is expected to be rolled out nationwide by 2014.

Applications include tracking a suspect by picking out their face in a crowd and comparing images of a person of interest. against a national repository of images held by the FBI. An algorithm would perform an automatic search and return a list of potential hits for an officer to sort through and use as possible leads for an investigation.

The FBI’s Jerome Pender told the Senate in July that the searchable photo database used in the pilot studies only includes mugshots of known criminals. But it’s unclear from the NGI’s privacy statement whether that will remain the case once the entire system is up and running or if civilian photos might be added(and they will be, you dont spend 1 Billion dollars on this technology to keep tabs on a small minority of criminals and “suspected terrorists”), says attorney Jennifer Lynch of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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