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FBI Has Collected 430,000 Iris Scans In 'Pilot Program' (theverge.com) 32

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: The Verge has obtained documents that reveal the San Bernardino Sheriff's Department has been collecting iris data from at least 200,000 arrestees over the last two and a half years. The department was collecting an average of 189 iris scans each day in the early months of 2016. The activity is part of a larger pilot program organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Since its launch in 2013, the program has stockpiled iris scans from 434,000 arrestees, an FBI spokesperson confirmed," reports The Verge. Through information-sharing agreements with various other agencies across the country, the new national biometric database stretches the traditional boundaries of a pilot program, and just barely stays out of reach of privacy mandates. The Verge reports: "A 2013 memo signed by representatives from the FBI and California Department of Justice summarizes responsibilities. At that time, according to the memo, the FBI had more than 30,000 images but did not have a way to search through them. The length of the California program was to be kept at one year, and reassessed after, but the documents show the partnership has been renewed every year since. The FBI would not comment on numbers from any particular source. However, 'operations reports' obtained by The Verge through the California Public Records Act requests the catalogue of the program's progress and suggest the state has been a major asset in the construction of the database. A document dated February of this year lists more than a quarter of a million 'enrollments' in the database from the California Department of Justice. In both 2014 and 2015, according to the document, more than 100,000 records were added to the system. Those scans are sent to the FBI by the California Justice Department, which in turn receives them from three counties: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside. Despite its relatively small population, the documents show San Bernardino County made more than 190,000 enrollments alone since 2014, far outpacing Los Angeles and Riverside counties." The pilot program has no privacy impact assessment "because the pilot was conducted with very limited participation for a limited period of time in order to evaluate iris technology," an FBI representative told The Verge. The vast majority of the 430,000 enrollments were added after that determination was made. The bureau is reportedly in the process of creating a privacy impact assessment but there's no word as to when that will be complete. In June, the Government Accountability Office published a report that says the FBI has access to hundreds of millions of photos.
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FBI Has Collected 430,000 Iris Scans In 'Pilot Program'

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  • Watch the birdie... *click*

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @06:18PM (#52500927)

    If they were doing this INSTEAD of fingerprinting, I would say that is a privacy improvement... but you know that isn't the case. At least you don't leave your eye prints all over the place to be traced and tracked.

    I think it is completely laughable the article or summary would even mention the word "privacy".... First, anyone that thinks the FBI and other 3 letter agencies don't have access to all the biometrics collected from every other government agency is off their rocker. So what difference does this make?? I suspect they do and/or will get their hands on private databases too (are you willfully handing over your fingerprint images to Apple/Google?) Second, how is this less privacy-eroding than fingerprints???? The only thing worse for privacy is DNA... and they will be collecting that, too.

    Personally, I think you shouldn't be printed in any way (DNA, Iris, or fingerprint) unless you are formally charged with a crime, and they should be purged permanently if you are acquitted... but there is no way they would ever give up that data, even if it were the law. No way.

    If they wanted to collect a more harmless biometric, it should be deep vein palm info. That registration data cannot be readily abused. It can't be latently collected like DNA, fingerprints, and face recognition can. You have to know you are registering/ enrolling when it happens. You don't leave evidence of it all over the place. When you go to use it, you know you are using it every time. And on top of all that, it is accurate, fast, reliable, unchanging, live-sensing, and cheap. If you must participate in a biometric, this is the one you should insist on using. Of course, crime units WANT latent biometrics, such as DNA and fingerprints.

    Of course, this doesn't mean we should support being forced to positively identify ourselves all the time (when shopping, when going to a movie, when getting gas, etc) which seems to be the going trend. Freedom and privacy are closely linked and you can't really have one without the other.

    • If they were doing this INSTEAD of fingerprinting, I would say that is a privacy improvement... but you know that isn't the case. At least you don't leave your eye prints all over the place to be traced and tracked.

      As you said, people don't leave iris prints anywhere, so what possible purpose would law enforcement have for iris data - especially anything that finger prints can satisfy? Perhaps law enforcement is hoping for a Minority Report style future where iris scanning and tracking is everywhere and they're trying to get ahead of the curve. In any case, simply sounds like another way to subvert personal privacy.

    • by ShaunC ( 203807 )

      At least you don't leave your eye prints all over the place to be traced and tracked.

      Yet. 20 years ago it was unthinkable that fingerprint readers would become so ubiquitous we'd be carrying them around in our pockets. 20 years from now (less, probably) you'll be using your iris scan to pay for groceries.

    • The only thing worse for privacy is DNA... and they will be collecting that, too.

      They already do.

      Anyone in the USA arrested for suspicion of having committed a Class I Misdemeanor, or greater, will have their mouth swabbed to collect a sample for the FBI's US National Felon Database.

      Yes, that's right. Arrested == GUILTY in the eyes of the Pigs. Good luck getting your DNA profile out of that database once a court exonerates you. (It will never happen.)

  • Officers would let you hold a badge, hand cuffs, sit in the squad car.... oh and go home with a souvenir copy of our very own fingerprints. Funny thing is, they kept a copy too.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes! That happened to us too. This would have been circa mid 1970's. They went around and fingerprinted the whole class as part of some program to scare kids into not becoming criminals. I was too young to grasp the implications at the time, and also the 1970's was well before the current explosion of omnipresent monitoring and "big data". They took fingerprints of all the kids, and I remember comments being tossed around about the fingerprints "going into our files, so you should think twice about com

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I do hope they also purge these records if guilt is not established, although I highly doubt it.

    Same deal as Britain. The police collect DNA on arrest and keep it irrespective of any verdict. The end result is police harassment and general attempting to "arrest anyone for anything whenever possible". Heck, they'll arrest you on a jaywalking charge just to get DNA.

  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Tuesday July 12, 2016 @07:29PM (#52501323) Homepage Journal

    DNA and fingerprints get left all over the place. Iris scans don't. That has obvious privacy implications.

    On the other hand, fingerprints and DNA are very well understood at this point. (Yes, there have been scandals where markers in DNA have provided "conclusive" matches that were anything but, but at least the science is understood.) We're pretty clear on fingerprints being left behind when we touch things, and DNA being left behind pretty much everywhere we go. Most people aren't so clear on iris scans--apparently a good camera can check for a match at some distance. The privacy implications are quite serious. This has the potential to be the biometric equivalent of license plate scanners that pick up every car that drives by.

    It's like facial recognition without the false matches.

    We might someday soon talk about sunglasses instead of tinfoil hats.

    • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Wednesday July 13, 2016 @04:45AM (#52502755)

      We might someday soon talk about sunglasses instead of tinfoil hats.

      Why not combine the two . . . ? Tinfoil sunglasses! Actually, I had a pair of those to watch a solar eclipse.

      But anyway, this would make a frightening Google Glass application: The glasses would take a facial picture and an iris scan of anyone who got in view of the glasses. This would be a "Bloatware" application, so the "owners" of the glasses would not even be aware, that they are harvesting information for "security" [sic] services.

      I really hope I die before all this gets rolled out.

  • I rode through Joshua Tree, CA on my way to LA. I stayed one night in Joshua Tree after stopping for a shower and rest at 29 Palms. Prior to that I'd slept on private property at the grace of a retired couple. All the locals in all those towns were awesome, but the cops not so much. An undercover cop sat near me at dinner and started a conversation about "his dad's personal grow" and his "inheritance from his mother's insurance." Dude was totally a plant trying to get me interested in pot or a deal, or a co

If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders. -- Hal Abelson

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