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Government Crime Electronic Frontier Foundation Privacy

As It Searches For Suspects, The FBI May Be Looking At You ( 90

schwit1 quotes the MIT Technology Review: The FBI has access to nearly 412 million photos in its facial recognition system—perhaps including the one on your driver's license. But according to a new government watchdog report, the bureau doesn't know how error-prone the system is, or whether it enhances or hinders investigations.

Since 2011, the bureau has quietly been using this system to compare new images, such as those taken from surveillance cameras, against a large set of photos to look for a match. That set of existing images is not limited to the FBI's own database, which includes some 30 million photos. The bureau also has access to face recognition systems used by law enforcement agencies in 16 different states, and it can tap into databases from the Department of State and the Department of Defense. And it is in negotiations with 18 other states to be able to search their databases, too...

Adding to the privacy concerns is another finding in the GAO report: that the FBI has not properly determined how often its system makes errors and has not "taken steps to determine whether face recognition systems used by external partners, such as states and federal agencies, are sufficiently accurate" to support investigations.

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As It Searches For Suspects, The FBI May Be Looking At You

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    We're leaving the EU.

  • Police body-cams (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @04:36PM (#52394557)
    How long before police body cams do real-time facial recognition?
  • Now... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WSOGMM ( 1460481 )
    If only they used that system to fight the real evils! like to spot and take away your car keys when you're eating and driving at the same time. or maybe just to take away your food when you're somewhere on your way to heart disease. i hear if your skin's black there's a correlation to you having marijuana in your possession. fucking hedons
  • 16 states (Score:5, Informative)

    by l0n3s0m3phr34k ( 2613107 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @04:39PM (#52394581)
    Ars [] has a better article, and has a map of which states are collaborators.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Is it weird that it's all the most "anti-government" states that have accepted and used this the most? Either their leadership are morons or their people are.

  • stare into the abyss
  • Unfortunately, I doubt you would get the desired result. Since there is no opting out, we just have to look more closely at them, and make sure they suffer all the same consequences we do.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That snippet about searching 18 other state's databases glosses over that they are talking about Drivers License photos --including those who have not committed or have been suspected of committing a crime.

    I wrote my state and local representatives over this very issue.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's also the picture databases from driving licenses.

    I'd add "passports" but many 'merkins don't have those (as opposed to Europe, where in many, even most countries everybody is required to have an identity card, which is basically a creditcard sized version of the identity page in a passport), though I'd expect those to follow soon, if they haven't been sucked into this thing already. Including everyone who goes through a passport check and has the chip in their passport read. It comes with a convenie

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @05:04PM (#52394751)
    is that most of people will never be impacted by the surveillance, at least not in a way they can see and feel. It's the same reason why America can't get away from the antiquated insurance model for health care. And If by some chance you are impacted you're misfortune leaves you completely marginalized...
  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @05:11PM (#52394791) Homepage Journal

    Maybe the FBI and various other authoritarian people are watching us?

    Maybe in a flying pig's eye, but maybe there's a solution?

    Too many people are deluding themselves with such notions as "It's okay since I would never do anything wrong."

    WRONG. You certainly will do plenty of things wrong, and the police don't believe there is such a thing as an innocent mistake. If they watch you closely enough, they have you by the balls, which they've already been watching, to boot.

    That's just the stick side of our loss of privacy. Of course no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. There are plenty of laws on the books and if the police want you badly enough and have enough data on you, then they will get you. Not just the police, however. Criminals, too, without even commenting on the other similarities.

    The carrot side of privacy loss is actually worse. By knowing your interests, tastes, and even your strengths, you can be manipulated and twisted. Maybe it's relatively harmless like buying the "right" toothpaste or a worthless certificate from Trump University, but there aren't any limits. Considering monetary threats, there's always debt slavery, which is how a lot of kids feel about their student loans. If you're a threat to the authorities, the question is what sort of sex crime you can be seduced with... Or maybe the biggest threat is to your most precious and limited resource, your short time on earth? As today's google sees it, based on their massive amounts of personal information you have so foolishly entrusted to the google, "All your attention are belong to us."

    Solution? Oh yeah, I was mumbling about a solution, wasn't I?

    KEEP YOUR OWN PERSONAL INFORMATION. Just make it illegal to keep anyone's personal information without that person's permission. The information can exist, but it has to be stored where and how the person wants it to be stored, and anyone who wants to look at it needs to ask nicely and then delete the copy of the information as soon as the purpose of the asking has been satisfied.

    Oh wait. Can pig's fly?

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @05:20PM (#52394841)
    what about fingerprints, they can be used to arrest someone, but fingerprints are inadmissible in court because fingerprints are not accurate enough to prove if the person is guilty, i bet there are similarities with the human face too, i seen people that looked alike close enough that if i seen two people that looked alike but after knowing them i could tell the difference and then i dont see them for 10 years or more and then see them again i could not be able to tell them apart, unless there was some signature feature i did not forget like a noticeable chipped or crooked tooth when they smile or a tattoo or scar, or a mole
  • Oh that hapless FBI, they just don't know what they're doing! Even though they have access to a horrifying amount of your personal information through the TOTAL SURVEILLANCE STATE they just don't know what to do with it all and they'll probably never figure it out! I guess there is no threat to you freedom whatsoever.

    What the presence of this story means is that facial recognition has been identified as a object of concern for the general public and that this is part of an effort to sooth fears. Even though

  • has not properly determined how often its system makes errors

    There aren't any errors in our system, only "statistical deviations". They may look like errors to the untrained eye, but they aren't.
    .... Otherwise we wouldn't get paid, don't'cha know?

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @05:39PM (#52394911)
    What the fuck are you bitching about? We're the FBI, we don't give a damn if a few innocent people get swept up in our investigations. And if they can't afford a really good lawyer then they won't be innocent by time we are done with them anyway. Get over yourselves, this is America. You have no rights any more.
  • Whoah, really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Sunday June 26, 2016 @06:05PM (#52395013)

    You mean if you do fuzzy searches for matches among 412 million records you might get false positives? Shocking.

    The bad part comes later, when some of those "matches" might have some other tenuous but invalid connections to other data points that happen through sheer chance to link to whatever crime is being investigated.

    Example: If your face coincidentally happens to match on 10 out of 14 of their probable data points or indices, AND you also happen to have (for example) visited the same store as the real perpetrator within a certain time frame (another data point), guess who's going to become elevated to the status of a prime suspect? You, that's who.

    And once they get a hit that matches like this, tunnel-vision sets in and they spend the rest of their time "proving" it was you, whether it was or not. And good luck proving it wasn't you- you might be able to do so, but it's gonna cost you. It might end up costing you your home, job, spouse, etc etc, not to mention the contents of your bank account. Defense attorneys aren't cheap.

    Once they (mistakenly) decide it's you that committed some crime, enormous resources are brought into play to "prove" your guilt, and good luck standing up to them or coming out unscathed.

    I'm all for using technology to solve crimes but "push button proof" often morphs into lazy investigations and miscarriages of justice. But why should the authorities care? It's not going to be them spending years in prison. They'll go home and sleep in their own bed tonight while you're being strip-searched on your way to jail.

    • False positives would be bad if there were no checks, but nowhere does this article say that people are being put in jail because some software says they are a bad guy based on a driver's license picture. This could be useful if a store was found to be robbed by a white male age ~25 with blonde hair and green eyes. I suspect if you could search people living in that zip code for people matching that description you could have a handful of hits that could then be possibly helpful in finding the perp. Is it

      • False positives would be bad if there were no checks, but nowhere does this article say that people are being put in jail because some software says they are a bad guy based on a driver's license picture.

        And nowhere did I say they were doing that. Maybe next time you could spend a moment reading what I wrote before replying.

  • The ones looking at my life would be the ones nodding off lol

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The FBI collected my fingerprints to verify that I was not a felon before I could teach. The same is true for healthcare workers. Fair enough. I would not want my children in the care of a felon.

    However, my fingerprints were not just run against a database, they were added to the database. Now, every fingerprint check is run against my fingerprints. This seems to me a presumption of guilt with no trial, and there is no recourse to have my fingerprints expunged from the system. This is innocuously know

  • Is the FBI inventing some kind of AI Cluedo? e.g. "Your honour, after extensive investigations, we conclude that it was Professor Plum who used a candlestick to kill the victim in the billiard room. Oh, wait a minute, wrong brief. Looks like this one's a do-over... Can I start again?"

  • Yes, I was the one that deleted all those emails on hitlary clinton's illegal exchange server.

    Come get me you useless FBI faggot leftist cunt lap dogs.

  • I do not think this surprises anyone, considering how every TV show and movie with law enforcement features a scene where a computer flashes bajillion of photos when looking for matches to a suspect or victim.
  • Pull up the picture of (Trump, Hillary) before they're made up and they'd have nightmares for a week!

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban