The FBI is turning to facial recognition in an attempt to bust more crime—and has a budget of $1 billion to do it with. The bureau's Next Generation Identification project has already been given the greenlight in some states, and is expected to go nationwide by 2014. This will give law enforcement officials the ability to put their library of mugshots to greater use.
The technology will work in two directions: agents will be able to match existing mugshots up with faces in crowd photos; and CCTV images will be compared to the FBI's photographic database. Very little is known about the algorithm driving the technology—something the agency will wish to keep a secret, and something that civil rights activists will campaign to have made public.
It is unclear whether the NGI, which already uses biometric information such as iris scans and voice identification, will be able to use data from other agencies. The project, run by Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions, has already pulled information from firms in charge of issuing driving licenses in some states, a move which privacy campaigners are not happy about, saying that it will lead to a national photographic database.