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FBI Launches $1 Billion Nationwide Face Recognition System 188

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
MrSeb writes "The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples, and other biometrics that will help the FBI identify and catch criminals — but it is how this biometric data is captured, through a nationwide network of cameras and photo databases, that is raising the eyebrows of privacy advocates. Until now, the FBI relied on IAFIS, a national fingerprint database that has long been due an overhaul. Over the last few months, the FBI has been pilot testing a face recognition system, which will soon be scaled up (PDF) until it's nationwide. In theory, this should result in much faster positive identifications of criminals and fewer unsolved cases. The problem is, the FBI hasn't guaranteed that the NGI will only use photos of known criminals. There may come a time when the NGI is filled with as many photos as possible, from as many sources as possible, of as many people as possible — criminal or otherwise. Imagine if the NGI had full access to every driving license and passport photo in the country — and DNA records kept by doctors, and iris scans kept by businesses. The FBI's NGI, if the right checks and balances aren't in place, could very easily become a tool that decimates civilian privacy and freedom."
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FBI Launches $1 Billion Nationwide Face Recognition System

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  • by puddingebola (2036796) on Friday September 07, 2012 @04:59PM (#41266747) Journal
    The person who posted this story is a thought criminal. Report to the Ministry of Love immediately.
    • by Tackhead (54550)

      The person who posted this story is a thought criminal. Report to the Ministry of Love immediately.

      Nice try, Goldstein! You just want to make sure that by the time the rats in Room 101 are done with your operative, Big Brother's facial recognition scanners will never be able to pick him up!

  • One more reason (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:00PM (#41266777)

    One more reason to not post stuff on Facebook.

    • by srussia (884021)

      One more reason to not post stuff on Facebook.

      Au contraire, flood DoS, anyone?

    • by currently_awake (1248758) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:55PM (#41267561)
      Your mother just posted these hilarious shots of you with some nice hells angel bikers from when your car broke down. With your name tagged. Gee, I wonder if that will be entered into the database? I'm sure having you tagged as an associate of known criminals will aid you immensely.
    • On reading the headline I had to stop and try to remember what the FB in FBI stood for. Just for a moment. Scary moment.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      What are you worried about? They only spent a billion on it. Everybody knows that any government contract under a billion is worthless. They'll be lucky if they can even log into it at that price.
    • Don't worry about posting your pics to Facebook; your friends will do that for you. Chances are that a picture with you in it at any social event (sister's wedding, office picnic, drunken dorm blowout) has already made its way to Facebook or another photo sharing service... dutifully tagged with your name by said friends.
  • Anyone will do... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mspohr (589790) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:03PM (#41266821)

    The problem is that cops get points for arresting someone (catch the criminal).
    They don't necessarily get points deducted for catching the wrong person.
    This database will help them rack up points by finding someone who vaguely matches. All they need to do then is get them to "confess" (aka "plea bargain").

    • Re:Anyone will do... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by oakgrove (845019) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:19PM (#41267069)

      All they need to do then is get them to "confess" (aka "plea bargain").

      And conveniently over 90 percent of federal cases end in plea bargaining. And if you make the mistake of not taking the offer and get found guilty at trial, you can be virtually certain to end up with a harsher sentence and at a minimum, you want receive the "downward departure" for being cooperative which is standard in federal cases.

      That being said, why wait until that phase to get the confession when you can just send in the private investigators from the start. PIs aren't bound by any of that "Miranda Act" nonsense and can pretty much say anything they want to get you to incriminate yourself and it all stands up in court just as well as if an interviewing detective had gotten you to talk.

      • by Aryden (1872756)

        PIs aren't bound by any of that "Miranda Act" nonsense and can pretty much say anything they want to get you to incriminate yourself and it all stands up in court just as well as if an interviewing detective had gotten you to talk.

        The police can say anything they want to get you to talk. Miranda rights may have to be read, but that doesn't stop them from lying through their teeth to get the information they want out of you.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:31PM (#41267255) Journal

      They don't necessarily get points deducted for catching the wrong person.

      This is the real problem. If you've been falsely accused of a crime, removed from your home, and locked in a cage, then you've been victimized just as surely as if you were kidnapped. In such circumstances you deserve justice against your aggressor.

      • Re:Anyone will do... (Score:4, Informative)

        by mk1004 (2488060) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:43PM (#41267433)
        There was a case in Dallas some years ago like this. The guy worked as a window installer. He moved somewhere in the North East. Some years later, the national fingerprint database went on-line and the local cops started running fingerprints that had been gathered at crime scenes through the system. The guy had been in the military, so his records were in the database and matched prints found in a burglary. The detectives working the case didn't care that there was a perfectly good explanation for his prints being at the scene. He ended up going back to Dallas, interrupting his family's lives until he could get it resolved. A plea bargain counts as a win; they didn't care if he was guilty or not.
        • There was a case in Dallas some years ago like this. The guy worked as a window installer.

          Some very dangerous criminal (I think the Unabomber, but I may be wrong) was caught because the police found a finger print on a letter that he wrote. Not the criminal's finger print, but the finger print of a completely innocent employee at a copying shop. Which lead them to the shop and from there to the criminal.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      So an explosion in the number of excessive use of force cases, as looks like person after looks like person is beaten, tazed and often shot for looking like a person the FBI are after, when the FBI send out the local steroid junkies. What's beating this billion dollar system ends up costing ten times as much in false arrests.

  • FB et. al? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:06PM (#41266879)

    How long until Facebook and other considerably large photography aggregators get tapped for their "resources"?

    • by Sperbels (1008585)
      What makes you think they don't already have FB's data?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        FB ... FBI.

        Coincidence? I think not!

    • by mr1911 (1942298)

      How long until Facebook and other considerably large photography aggregators get tapped for their "resources"?

      About three years ago.

  • public datasets (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    During a 2010 presentation [biometrics.org]made by the FBI’s Biometric Center of Intelligence, the FBI said the technology could be used for "identifying subjects in public databases."

    Hello, Facebok!

  • http://www.thelocal.de/lifestyle/20120823-44537.html [thelocal.de]

    just read that today (a few minutes ago, in fact).

    in the US, its illegal to hide your face in public (not sure the exact wording, but its essentially along those lines).

    halloween is an exception but probably not even listed in the laws. technically, they COULD hassle you on oct-31 if they wanted to.

    • Well then I guess I'll have to leave my helmet off for the ride home tonight. Wouldn't want to upset the police!
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Since when is it illegal to hide your face in the USA?

      Please link to the relevant law. In the winter where I live people regularly wear ski masks.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Boy, winter comes early to Detroit!

      • I have not checked all states and it probably does vary by state. but this is what I was able to find:

        NEW YORK Penal Law 240.35 (4):
        Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or lik

        • sorry, this is a better link and it contains a short summary by state:

          http://www.anapsid.org/cnd/mcs/maskcodes.html [anapsid.org]

          these states have 'issues', listed:

          AL AK AZ AR CA COCT DC DE FL GA HI IA ID IL IN KS KY LA MA MD ME MI MN MO MS MT NC ND NE NH NJ NM NV NY OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VA VT WA WI WV WY

          man, that's a LOT.

          hope all that modded me down will reconsider your judgement..

          and btw, I do NOT agree with this. don't shoot me, I'm only the messenge

        • by Lakitu (136170)

          what?

          NEW YORK Penal Law 240.35 (4):
          Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; blah blah blah other exceptions

          CA Penal Code Section 185.
          It shall be unlawful for any person to wear any mask, false whiskers, or any personal disguise (whether complete or partial) for the purpose

        • by dthx1138 (833363)
          The way the California code is worded seems to imply that simply wearing a mask is not a crime. It's only a violation if it can be proven that you were wearing a mask/disguise for the purpose of evading identification while 1) committing a public offense, or 2) if you have already been charged or convicted with an offense. In other words, they'd have to prove that you committed some other crime first.

          If that's the case, the mask is simply a misdemeanor add-on to whatever your initial crime is, which seem
          • i saw a hip hop show at a bar once. one of the acts was a duo who wore masks as part of their act. they waited outside and when it was time for their set, they rushed in through the crowd, jumped up on stage and started performing. someone parking their car across the street saw them run in, and called the cops describing two masked men rushing into a bar. when the cops showed up they asked the bouncer if he'd seen the two masked men. bouncer pointed at the stage and cop shook his head and left. better safe
  • Privacy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by byteherder (722785) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:10PM (#41266949)

    Who thinks this will stop at just helping "the FBI identify and catch criminals"?
     
    This is a bigger threat to privacy than anything in history.

    • Who thinks this will stop at just helping "the FBI identify and catch criminals"? This is a bigger threat to privacy than anything in history.

      Except maybe for the Stasi.. KGB... Facebook...

      • If you think the Stasi or the KGB had anything remotely close to this, you're incredibly naive. The kind of computing power necessary to exploit this kind of database hasn't existed until very recent history. While there may have been databases in Stasi offices, how long does it take to look through paper files for a photo, compared to computer processing? The Stasi would have cum in their pants for modern surveillance capabilities.

        Now Facebook is a different story, but it's still my choice whether I joi

      • Who thinks this will stop at just helping "the FBI identify and catch criminals"? This is a bigger threat to privacy than anything in history.

        Except maybe for the Stasi.. KGB... Facebook...

        I am sure the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestpo too, would have loved this but it just didn't exist at that time.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Who thinks this will stop at just helping "the FBI identify and catch criminals"?

      This is a bigger threat to privacy than anything in history.

      And when the local police get their hands on it watch what happens. In many municipalities they already have an array of cameras on their cars to scan license plates. The next logical step are the face scanners. So when you're taking that walk to clear your head and decide to explore a little, don't be surprised when Jonny Law pulls up with a "Hey, Robert Scoble of 123 Maplewood Lane. It looks like you're a little far from home. Care to tell me about the burglaries that have been happening around here

  • Good for them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bryansix (761547)
    First off the widely reported story is that the NGI will use public surveillance video and photos. The part about including DNA records from private practices is unsubstantiated. Now I for one do not have a problem with them using public surveillance or Driver's License ID's. If you go out in Public, you consent to being watched by the same public and by extension, the Government. It is completely acceptable and good for them to use this legally obtained data in an automated recongnition system. Yes there
    • by Anonymous Coward

      And when a pole with multiple cameras shows up in front of every residence in America it's all good since the cameras are on public property, right? RIGHT?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      and by extension, the Government.

      No, I don't. The government is theoretically controlled by the people, and hopefully people realize it's probably a bad idea to allow the government to have eyes and ears everywhere, and frankly, people who think this is a good idea are gullible idiots who have learned nothing from history's long line of corrupt governments.

      In short, if the people don't want these automated systems, the government probably wouldn't have them. If the people didn't want the government to spy on them and actually did something

      • by bbelt16ag (744938)
        First they came for the socialists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.
    • Yeah, I would be concerned about how good these systems are, and if they are really worth the money. Unless they do 3D face recognition (which is very expensive), the accuracy is really bad (especially for a system of this scale).

    • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:40PM (#41267381)

      Now I for one do not have a problem with them using public surveillance or Driver's License ID's. If you go out in Public, you consent to being watched by the same public and by extension, the Government.

      A normal person who was watched by "the same public" as closely as these systems can would quickly feel like he was being stalked and harassed. Going out in public does not mean you give consent to be stalked and have the time and date of your location constantly recorded in a permanent database.

      It is completely acceptable and good for them to use this legally obtained data in an automated recongnition system. Yes there needs to be checks and balances but the problem doesn lie in the source of the images.

      It absolutely does lie in the source of the images you gloss over all the nuance by saying "legally obtained" - when in fact what matters most is WHY it was legally obtained. Being photographed for a driver's license is a far different thing than being photographed for a system that can be used to identify someone who isn't even in a car, much less driving.

      • Now I for one do not have a problem with them using public surveillance or Driver's License ID's. If you go out in Public, you consent to being watched by the same public and by extension, the Government.

        A normal person who was watched by "the same public" as closely as these systems can would quickly feel like he was being stalked and harassed. Going out in public does not mean you give consent to be stalked and have the time and date of your location constantly recorded in a permanent database.

        Exactly this, any corporeal person obtaining this much information about you "in public" 20 years ago would have been eligible for a restraining order against them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Incorrect. When a person goes out into the public, that person does not expect that everyone that crosses his path has a perfect photographic memory. A person that goes out in public, based on innate human limitations, expects that he will be largely anonymous.

      The video camera and face recognition technology completely destroy that expectation.

      It is time for the people to demand that *their* government halt such unexpected intrusions.

    • by houghi (78078)

      If you go out in Public, you consent to being watched

      Being watched is not identical to being recorded.

      In better times, when a cop saw you, at an event, he would have forgotten you after a few seconds, unless you did something that would make him remember you. The same for everybody else. You would not remember him either.

      Now nothing is forgotten and that is an invasion of my privacy. And yes, I do expect some privacy in public. Public space mean to me a space where a lot of people are together. It does not

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      People don't sit around in the registry and pay a hefty fee to give an updated photo for the spy system, they do it to drive. Using those photos is an abuse of the public trust. I'll print out your post and mail it to you when you are death row because a guy without a license who looks you went into a maternity ward and raped all the babies to death.
  • by BMOC (2478408) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:13PM (#41266995)
    Selling T-Shirts saying, "I've got your false-positive right here..." with a picture of goat.se on the back...
    • Please if somebody actually does this please use UV inks to make the picture not normal color inks

  • by arcite (661011) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:14PM (#41267005)
    ...walking around outside with a brown paper bag over my head. NOW who's paranoid? FOOLS!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Also, shouldn't criminals who have served their entire sentence (including parole) be removed from this database?

    Hell and blood, the police often have trouble knocking down the right door when they have an address:

    http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Ex-Miss-Nevada-Sues-LA-Sheriffs-Deputies-Over-Raid-164060136.html [nbclosangeles.com]

    How are they going to behave when this system wrongly identifies an innocent person?

    • Well they're not sending out an armed robot drone to kill the person identified by the software. It's not an irreversible process.

      I imagine false positives would be handled by human agents looking at the photograph, then looking at the person's face in real life, and perhaps talking to them.

      • They probably do that in the middle east first to test it out. Then when the expected bi-kill rate is low enough they bring it here.
    • by oakgrove (845019) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:33PM (#41267281)

      Also, shouldn't criminals who have served their entire sentence (including parole) be removed from this database?

      Why would they want to do that? If they restored full citizenship to ex-cons and actually allowed them to lead productive lives as full-fledged members of society, drastically lowering the recidivism rate from desperate people that can't even get hired at McDonalds and see no choice but to go back to crime, then how are they going to keep all the prosecutors, judges, police, detention officers, wardens, etc. employed? I mean, for God's sake man, what about the stockholders for the private prison corporations? Who's thinking about them?

      • by wbr1 (2538558)
        Amen.
        Not to mention the fact that restoring rights allows a not insignificant bloc of disenfranchised individuals to vote again. Scary to some in power to be sure.
  • They need a dour look for the facial recognition learning algorithms.
  • the DMV ended the generation's old custom of allowing people to smile for their drivers license photo.
  • In the event that such a circumstance comes to pass (or for that matter, has already come to pass), how in the world will you know? The glint off of their shiny new terahertz scanners [wikipedia.org] perhaps?
  • Registry Opt-out (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Narnie (1349029)

    I'm not particularly interested in this service. Where's the opt-out (do-not-fly) list signup?

  • Mark Zuckerberg's criminal record has quietly disappeared from the Criminal Record Database. No explanation was forthcoming.
  • Amateurs! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We have had this in London for years.

  • by dgharmon (2564621) on Friday September 07, 2012 @05:42PM (#41267415) Homepage
    "The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples, and other biometrics that will help the FBI identify and catch criminals"

    Actually, it's just a more efficient method for the police state to spy on its own citizens . Such methods the Stazi could only dream of. Without the threat of Islamic "terrorism" such methods would never have been acceptable by the population. A relevant question to ask is, who is going to protect us from you?
    • A relevant question to ask is, who is going to protect us from you?

      That's simple, Anyone willing to take a stand and do so (AKA Terrorists).

  • Doesn't that word mean to "remove one-tenth of"?
    • yes but the worst cases will be milionates!

    • Doesn't that word mean to "remove one-tenth of"?

      decimate - n. : a session lasting only a fraction of the duration a partner typically desires for intercourse.
      "I'm glad it was good for you, but I could use about nine more of those decimates."

  • Look, the FBI doesn't need to build a database when Facebook/Instagram is so pervasive.

    So... this comes to light just after Facebook closes on a 1B purchase of Instagram.

    Where's that government money going again?

  • by Altanar (56809) on Friday September 07, 2012 @06:15PM (#41267841)

    Imagine if the NGI had full access to every driving license...

    Let me stop you right there. You can imagine all you want, but I can't ever see the states ever agreeing to a shared ID database. Look at how many states refused to take part in the REAL ID [wikipedia.org] law. At least half the states have flat out refused to comply. Do you think that more than three or four would ever agree to spending state money on an FBI project?

  • by RevSpaminator (1419557) on Friday September 07, 2012 @06:51PM (#41268221)
    There are a lot of concerns being voiced, but come on folks... When has the FBI ever been used to track those with opposing political points of view?
  • I'm not worried. I've stay informed via the FBI proxy broadcast services aka "anonymous*" and know that by tilting my head [youtube.com] and carrying a fully illuminated Christmas-tree, I will stroll through the shadows unseen.

    Nasrudin walked into a store one day, and the owner greeted him.
    “Wait a second,” said Nasrudin. “Have you ever seen me before?”
    “Never,” said the man.
    “Then how do you know it was me?” replied Nasrudin.
  • They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    - Benjamin Franklin
  • Really there's any credibility to the claim after the .gov can't upgrade an ATC system, scrapped an FBI integration system that simply didn't work and there's any claim the FBI can float state-of-the-art image recognition platform?

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