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Enhanced FBI Database Lets Authorities Search Criminal And Non-Criminal Biometrics

Enhanced FBI Database Lets Authorities Search Criminal And Non-Criminal Biometrics
[Photo: Flickr user Robert Vitulano]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said Monday that its expanded biometric database Next Generation Identifier is now fully operational.

Next Generation Identifier, which took three years to develop, replaces the bureau’s fingerprint identification system and adds two services: Rap Back lets authorities receive notifications of criminal history for individuals holding certain positions of trust (such as teachers), and the Interstate Photo System facial recognition system lets law enforcement officials perform image searches for criminals.

Next Generation Identifier is estimated to process 55,000 photos daily and is on track to include 52 million images of faces by 2015.

Privacy advocates have concerns about the FBI’s enhanced facial recognition database because it comprises both non-criminal photos and criminal mugshots. The database is reported to include 4.3 million non-criminal photos, which can be sourced from background checks. Fingerprints submitted to potential employers as part of these checks can also be stored in the FBI’s database. Previously, the FBI did not link criminal and non-criminal fingerprint databases.

“This means that even if you have never been arrested for a crime, if your employer requires you to submit a photo as part of your background check, your face image could be searched–and you could be implicated as a criminal suspect–just by virtue of having that image in the non-criminal file,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Jennifer Lynch in a blog post from April.AT