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FBI's New Eye Scan Database Raising Eyebrows 229

mattnyc99 writes "The FBI has confirmed to Popular Mechanics that it's not only adding palm prints to its criminal records, but preparing to balloon its repository of photos, which an agency official says 'could be the basis for our facial recognition.' It's all part of a new biometric software system that could store millions of iris scans within 10 years and has privacy advocates crying foul. Quoting: 'The FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which could cost as much as $1 billion over its 10-year life cycle, will create an unprecedented database of biometric markers, such as facial images and iris scans. For criminal investigators, NGI could be as useful as DNA some day — a distinctive scar or a lopsided jaw line could mean the difference between a cold case and closed one. And for privacy watchdogs, it's a dual threat — seen as a step toward a police state, and a gold mine of personal data waiting to be plundered by cybercriminals.'"
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FBI's New Eye Scan Database Raising Eyebrows

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  • Blah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:09PM (#24003293)

    The DMV and the US government already have my picture (passport). Why should I give a shit if the FBI has it or has access to it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:19PM (#24003453)
    Once they get a DNA database everyone, you'll have to leave the house wearing gloves and protective clothing so you don't accidentally leave DNA on someone who happens to get murdered later.
  • Re:'Duel' threat? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by magarity ( 164372 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:19PM (#24003457)

    Now which weapon should I choose... rapier and/or dagger?
    Ballot box

  • by crashandburn66 ( 1290292 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:22PM (#24003499)
    The iris scans seem benign to me. I'm not entirely sure how they would scan the insides of your eyeballs without your consent, at least for now. What concerns me is the facial scans. I have a feeling that this is more than just pictures like on a passport. I'm thinking more along the lines of a virtual model of one's physical features, possibly built from various images into a kind of 3-D composite. There are a few problems with this. One is that you could be mistaken for someone else (obviously). Another is that this would only work with a very sophisticated camera surveillance system, or what would be the point? So this could mean that the government is planning to really step up their surveillance program. And of course they'll give us the same bullshit about fighting violent crime and terrorism, and people will eat it up. And then there will be cameras everywhere, like in China. That's what really scares me about this.
  • Oh hey (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kjzk ( 1097265 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:23PM (#24003517)
    The U.S. government and Popular Mechanics have been in bed together for quite some time now. Remember the desperate and failed attempt to debunk 9/11 conspiracy theories in one of their issues? It only generated more suspicion and exposed their tight relationship. This leaves me to believe that Popular Mechanics is probably glorifying this Police State tactic.

    Popular Mechanics is garbage. It's for people who want to pretend to be smart.
  • test subjects (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jhines ( 82154 ) <> on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:27PM (#24003591) Homepage

    They should use the politicians that control the agency, and the upper level bosses in the agency, as the first test subjects. Not that they have anything to hide, but I'm guessing they wouldn't like it in this case.

  • And? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:39PM (#24003797)

    Technology has been moving this way for decades. There is even an argument that it's been moving this way for centuries.

    And so what? How much is this really going to effect us? Really? As things stand we have all our information stored by banks, hospitals, employers, and social networks. This is a natural progression.
    Anyone who thinks governments wouldn't do this obviously didn't pay attention at school. They've been doing this since they came into existence.

    This isn't going to result in a police state. Whats going on in Zimbabwe leads to a police state, not what we have here. All this is is a centralisation of information.

    As for me, I don't care whether they want this info or not. And as for the cybercriminal thing, you believe your bank/hospital/employer is any safer? Seriously?

    If this move would damn us, we've already been damned for some time.

    Next up, world doesn't end when this happens.

  • Re:Blah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:42PM (#24003855)

    Because they're the ones with the badges and guns and the ability to detain you without trial and make you disappear?

    Just saying.

  • several things (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Humorless Coward. ( 862619 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:48PM (#24003939)

    Yeah, the iris ID thing is ludicrous, if you think about it from the idea that
    they'd use it to identify you as having been at the scene of a crime.

    No, I believe that government has no legitimate right or responsibility to track
    the physiological details of its citizens.

    It's not a matter of falsely accusing an innocent person. It's a matter of using
    the information for political purposes, or harassment of an innocent person.

    The government of the US has proven it won't even comply with espionage laws
    involving protection of informants. The government of the US has proven it
    can't protect its citizens from criminal or negligent data loss by its own

    I'm supposed to trust these clowns not to fabricate false allegations against
    people, and use physical data to ensure persecution?


  • Re:Hold up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:55PM (#24004081)

    Nevermind someone hacking the FBI DB - what if some data entry monkey just screws up their data entry?

    "And now, entering data for serial killer John Doe, III" while having the record open for Jon Do, II. How will this be changed? Updated?

    I have a trivial mistake in my passport file (they have the wrong passport labeled as lost), and it is costing me 2 hours at immigration every time I fly. I have checked, and it is not possible to correct it. I fear to think what would happen with a more serious mistake. I'm pretty sure there'd be a lengthy trial involved, if not outright conviction and lengthy appeal.

  • Re:Alternatives (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:59PM (#24004163)

    There isn't. The system that allows you to instantly track criminals is the one that allows you to instantly track everybody. This is the definition of a police state.

    You know, I like some inefficiencies in my government. It makes sure that some dimwit who can't get a regular job doesn't get a Napoleon complex and institutes some harebrained regulation.

    Yes, it means some crimes go unsolved. I prefer that to some stupid crimes being solved.

  • Please do Not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by misterhypno ( 978442 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @01:59PM (#24004175)

    Look Into the Laser With Your REMAINING Eye.

    The BIG problems with biometrics that rely on external facial features along with such things as facial bone structures is that they CAN be foxed rather easily by a good makeup artist as well as by plastic surgery.

    Scars can be added - and removed - both by clever applications of makeup and/or plastic surgery. The set of a person's eyebrow ridge can similarly e altered (for the purpose of fooling scans) using either technology as well. So can the set of one's cheekbones, jawline or even the confirmation of the ears (another unique body feature, like the fingerprint).

    Once again, the government goes down a path that is easily mucked up and that will produce highly questionable results.

    Thanks again, Washington, for spending more of our money on eye scanners and less on things like flood control programs, bridge inspection teams and systems to keep our ports safe from maniacs who just might try to blow one of them higher than up!

  • Re:And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mpthompson ( 457482 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:02PM (#24004233)

    This isn't going to result in a police state. Whats going on in Zimbabwe leads to a police state, not what we have here.

    I agree. The concern over this seems to be making a mountain out of a molehill. Having an iris or other biometric profile for criminals is no more invasive than having images of tattoos or mug shots in a computer database. It is simply the progression of technology.

    For people who have no criminal convictions, I think there are legitimate concerns and that their biometric information should be kept out of such a database. It is important that there be an open mechanism so that people with privacy concerns can request their biometric records be purged if there is no legitimate reason for the government to have them. But if you are a convicted felon, too bad. Your biometric information is kept on record to facilitate future investigations.

  • Re:Alternatives (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Humorless Coward. ( 862619 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:04PM (#24004267)

    OK /.ers, if you're opposed to this, let's hear the alternatives. Describe a system that allows quickly tracking down criminals but protects personal privacy.

    The current one.

    Although it's alleged it doesn't sufficiently protect personal privacy.

    Oh? Did you mean one that would allow tracking down criminals more quickly than the current one?

    There's no reason to do so. You don't fight crime by catching criminals. You don't fight crime by deterrence. You fight crime by removing the incentive.

    Declaring wars on intangible concepts is stupid.

  • Re:Alternatives (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ruin20 ( 1242396 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:16PM (#24004473)
    A lot of the population doesn't believe we need increased efficiency in the tracking down criminals department. At least not the minimal amount that this system would provide. Since that need hasn't been identified, it's easy to say the cost isn't worth it. We don't need an alternative to this plan, because this plan is addressing a problem that doesn't need to be solved, tracking down repeat offenders IF they visit limited locations that have the capabilities provided in this system. Especially when the cost is allowing for Uncle Sam to get all the tools to build behavior profiles on anyone.
  • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:17PM (#24004497) Homepage

    Anybody notice the mention of Lockheed Martin in the original article?

    Really? Is more outsourcing of sensitive government tasks the way to go? Have we learned nothing from experience...

    The federal government outsources just about all of their sensitive science and engineering. Sandia National Lab [] is run by Lockheed Martin. LANL [] and LLNL [] are also run by contractors. Nothing new.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:18PM (#24004513)

    looks like all us "four-eyes" are going to have an extra modicum of privacy.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:28PM (#24004669)

    As things stand we have all our information stored by banks, hospitals, employers, and social networks. This is a natural progression.

    And this is ok on the face of it, but NOT the way these companies are being allowed to abuse it. Just because the abuse is ubiquitous doesn't mean it's ok.. that's like going back to the 1850's and arguing "slavery is the result of natural progression".

    And so what? How much is this really going to effect us? Really?

    Oh it doesn't hurt you at all as long as you're a conformist lemming who "has nothing to fear because he's done nothing 'wrong' ... " It doesn't have to be the government directly involved in the oppression, either. The dixie chicks happens on the micro level every day when the personnel manager is a bush-ite scumbag.

    as for other effects
    How about shortening people's lives with nagging telemarketing or killing wide swaths of the rainforest? I receive more useless paper in the form of junk mail each week from companies who buy this abusively shared information than I have ever used in a given year as a double major.

  • Re:'Duel' threat? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:46PM (#24004947) Journal

    Now which weapon should I choose... rapier and/or dagger?

    Ballot box

    I wasn't aware that you could vote for (or against) the FBI. But then, I'm not an American and there's much about your political system that I don't understand.

  • by Copid ( 137416 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @02:56PM (#24005069)

    one is superstition, the other is actual medical fact.

    Only if you're hanging around in the 19th century. With very few exceptions, examining the iris doesn't give you any information about illnesses (although it can certainly tell you about problems with the iris). Iridology lives on the trash heap [] of medical history [] these days. Aside from the fact that it makes no sense from a physiological perspective, it also simply fails on evidence.

    As far as I'm concerned, anything that has no theory or data to back it up doesn't even approach the realm of medical fact.

  • Re:And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @03:28PM (#24005531) Journal

    This isn't going to result in a police state. Whats going on in Zimbabwe leads to a police state, not what we have here.

    What will lead to a police state? The US IS a police state. If you have secret police you have a police state, and it doesn't matter if you call them "secret police" or politically correct euphemisms like "plainclothesmen" or "undercover agents".

    Get rid of victimless "crimes" and you have no rational need for secret police.

    If this move would damn us, we've already been damned for some time

    You think [] so? []

  • Re:And? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FeepingCreature ( 1132265 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @03:46PM (#24005869)
    Thanks for explaining (and demonstrating) the meaning of the idiom "slippery slope", as well as the story with the frog and the water.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2008 @04:41PM (#24006857)

    Why stop there? []

    This way they can't even ask you to remove them.

  • Re:Alternatives (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bit01 ( 644603 ) on Monday June 30, 2008 @06:44PM (#24008639)

    The better the tools law enforcement has, the better for all of us.

    Except when law enforcement and assorted bureaucrats and incompetents are the bad guys. Your automatic assumption that law enforcement are the good guys is telling. Do you think the percentage of bad guys in law enforcement is larger or smaller than the general population?

    I get annoyed with people advocating large databases accessed by large groups of people. Any large group of people will have good and bad in it. How do you deal with that? It's not as simple as you think.

    And what makes you think a database of millions of people and accessed by tens of thousands isn't going to compromised by organized crime approximately 30 seconds after it goes live? How will it affect witness protection programs? How will it affect the innocents who have erroneous data on their name? How will it affect innocents who have bad data deliberately put on their name?

    We could make law enforcement's job much easier but putting everybody's biometrics into a big database at birth and requiring everybody to have an operation putitng a GPS radio into them. Why don't we do that? It's a question of balance. Unfortunately, law enforcement's and politicians' idea of balance seems to be somewhat different from the general population's.


    DRM - Have you got big-corp-of-your-choice's permission to go to the toilet today?

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer