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FBI Can Access Hundreds of Millions of Face Recognition Photos (eff.org) 97

An anonymous reader writes from a report via EFF: The federal Government Accountability Office published a report on the FBI's face recognition capabilities that says the FBI has access to hundreds of millions of photos. According to the GAO report, the FBI's Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) Services unit not only has access to the FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) face recognition database of nearly 30 million civil and criminal mug shot photos, but it also has access to the State Department's Visa and Passport databases, the Defense Department's biometric database, and the drivers license databases of at least 16 states. This totals 411.9 million images, most of which are Americans and foreigners who have committed no crimes. In May, it was reported that the FBI is keeping information contained in the NGI database private and unavailable. It argues in a proposal that the database should be exempt from the Privacy Act.
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FBI Can Access Hundreds of Millions of Face Recognition Photos

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  • Blatant admission. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2016 @09:14PM (#52326281)
    "It argues in a proposal that the database should be exempt from the Privacy Act."

    Which is a blatant admission that they are currently violating it [wikipedia.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't get a passport or join the military.

    • Or get a driver's license.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you join the military, you have to give your DNA (you have no choice).

      This DNA is available to the FBI, all 50-states, and the EU, UK and AUS by means of information sharing agreements. Your DNA will be used to convict you regardless of any objection you might have if you ever are accused of a crime.

      • by EzInKy ( 115248 )

        Your DNA will be used to convict you regardless of any objection you might have if you ever are accused of a crime.

        Or it will exonerate you if you are innocent. Not that I'm for all this overreach but just stating the obvious.

        • Re:Ergo (Score:4, Insightful)

          by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Wednesday June 15, 2016 @09:40PM (#52326401)

          Your DNA will be used to convict you regardless of any objection you might have if you ever are accused of a crime.

          Or it will exonerate you if you are innocent. Not that I'm for all this overreach but just stating the obvious.

          People can always offer a DNA sample voluntarily if they feel it will exonerate them.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Problem is that DNA evidence is rarely clear-cut. Like fingerprints, it is open to interpretation. The way it is processed also affects the outcome. Juries, unfortunately, are often not aware of this.

            It's bad enough with fingerprints, where experts are expensive but at least only have to look at the evidence to form a conclusion. If the prosecution says it's your fingerprint you can probably afford your own expert to say that it isn't. With DNA though the process used to form a conclusion is destructive and

      • ID your "remains" when an IED has reduced you to a smear.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re a passport or photo ID... Its getting hard or more expensive to pay out per month for the ability of not having photo ID at some point in getting work or needed account creation at a city and state level.
      To cash a low wage from a job with no photo ID takes a percentage of a lower wage every month.
      Needing a real bank account to pay wages in is getting more accepted or needed under state of federal regulations, new applications might need a photo ID, getting past an interview might need more photo ID.
      • Re a passport or photo ID... Its getting hard or more expensive to pay out per month for the ability of not having photo ID at some point in getting work or needed account creation at a city and state level.
        To cash a low wage from a job with no photo ID takes a percentage of a lower wage every month.
        Needing a real bank account to pay wages in is getting more accepted or needed under state of federal regulations, new applications might need a photo ID, getting past an interview might need more photo ID. That basic on site work photo database ID gets shared with federal gov, more security or background information required for an offer of advancement or just keeping an entry level job due to new state or federal regulations.
        What was once sighted photo ID is now getting to be scanned ID shared with state and federal databases.
        Random requests for chat downs on public transport with a camera pointed at every passenger, chat downs near public transport hubs, sharing of public and private CCTV networks covering all faces walking past 24/7 in many city areas or in smaller towns. The federal facial databases of every driver and passenger near international boarder crossing areas along all main roads in that state.

        Facial recognition could be requested by local on site private sector security contractors or police via fusion centre support after an event or chat down.
        Its now just more easy and simple to collect all faces as images in a security network package as sold for any and all later sorting of people passing a building, location, mil or gov sensitive area or city location. Why wait for a security contractor to notice something when its cheaper for every face can be kept and shared with the federal gov?

        The other aspect is that of the "first amendment audit" with people staying on public land with a video camera and been approached by local police, federal officials or private sector security on public land for a "chat down" after been seen with a "camera". The resulting fun conversation about been confronted on public land is then posted on social media.
        Mil, gov, federal sites, local gov officials are building shared databases to track such people and give them no new funny chat down comments or to track back their vehicle or any local supporters with a second camera, secondary zoom or video in the area.

        What is needed is to turn it back on those in power.

        Create smart-phone apps that can be used to snap photos, along with time/location data, of LEOs/TLA agents/politicians/bureaucrats/officials and other assorted government lackeys to multiple cross-checked databases in foreign nations not part of the "5 Eyes" and who are not given to kow-towing to the "5 Eyes" nations or their allies.

        Use data analysis tools including facial recognition to plot out all their associations, travel patterns, spouses/partners/fa

  • Please keep bombing other countries so you will have an endless litany of excuses. We never really wanted our freedoms anyway. Thanks.

  • Turn it around. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If they, or a sister agency that they could rely on, didn't have that capability, people would question their competence and use of taxpayer money.

    What happens when someone who's not on a watch list commits a heinous crime on US soil, and law enforcement can't identify the person, unmasked, in good quality surveillance footage?

    Citizens would say WTF. We can't even start our investigation.

    • What happens when someone who's not on a watch list commits a heinous crime on US soil, and law enforcement can't identify the person, unmasked, in good quality surveillance footage?

      I'll give you a hint: They add their image or likeness to the "Wanted" page here [fbi.gov] as "Unknown Suspect" or "Unknown Individual."

  • Here's a selfie of me reading between the lines. And a video of me wondering why nobody else is thinking about the COST of the "social media revolution"

  • by superwiz ( 655733 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @12:32AM (#52326951) Journal
    Government can more efficiently search government records (legally obtained in this case). You submit passport photos and police is legally within their rights to take mug shots when they arrest someone. I am confused about why this is an issue. Even if they use it to search for a face captured on some camera during a purported crime, isn't this why these records are kept in the 1st place? Or is it ok if a victim looks through 20 folders of mugshots, but not ok if a computer looks through the same records based on an image from a store cam after a store got robbed? Where is the problem?
  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @12:59AM (#52327043)

    Am I the only one who isn't surprised in the slightest by this?

    Of course the FBI/CIA/NSA or whoever will use every possible tool at their disposal. The question of legality doesn't enter into the equation for these people, it's not even a concern unless they think they might be caught. Otherwise it's "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead."

    Seriously, if any of you still harbor the childishly naive belief that the nation's law enforcement agencies are constrained by the law in any way, shape, or form, please contact me as I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I'll sell dirt cheap.

    Face facts:

    - Your privacy is gone.
    - Your personal information is for sale to the highest bidder.
    - Your rights only matter if they don't get in the way of "fighting terrorism" or "upholding the law" or "protecting the children" or whatever the slogan of the week is.
    - If you have money or connections you can get away with damn near anything, otherwise expect to be fucked, and fucked hard. (Those prisons aren't going to fill themselves!)

    Oh sure, you may win some small battles, but that's penny ante stuff. If you get in the way of anyone or anything with moneyed interests, consider yourself squashed, because you will be.

    • by Matheus ( 586080 )

      Not surprised at all since I helped build the system.

      DoS has been matching Passport and Visa photos for a long long time. The only news here is that the FBI, only somewhat recently, added Face and Iris to their NGIS Fingerprint system. The fact they can search all 3 databases from one source was a fairly easy piece of middleware since all the databases are running the same Biometric software.

      The world rotates based on a careful balance of the illusion of security and the illusion of privacy... people still

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Thursday June 16, 2016 @01:03AM (#52327063)

    Just microchip us all at birth and be done with it.

  • Analyst Emily Lutella says "Oops, that's very different." It's actually seven million faces with photos taken from different angles. Government experts have a five year plan to identify faces regardless of angle, lighting, makeup, glasses, hats or Guy Fawkes masks.

  • Suppose I'm in the database, having entered the US on multiple occsions ... what is the false positive rate of the systems, and with what probability can I expect to be confused with some criminal and denied entry/arrested/diappeared off to some island?
  • search google and/or facebook.
  • ... no sense mentioning I'm sure they've made their own private mirror of every tagged photo from Facebook, Instagram, etc.

    • Well I would be all for that, just be sure to tag appropriately and incorrectly. Facebook's facial recognition for a while was really good a finding faces in mariposa lilies [wikipedia.org] so I took to tagging myself in them and got my friends to do the same. I also tag my self when it finds a "face" in a random ordering of leaves, grass, pebbles, or other seemingly faceless images.

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