“The capacity of the FBI to collect and retain information, even on innocent Americans, has grown exponentially. It is essential for the American public to have a complete picture of all the programs and authorities the FBI uses to track our daily lives, and an understanding of how those programs affect our civil rights and civil liberties.”
One such program is the Next Generation ID program, a massive biometric database that builds on the FBI’s fingerprint database to include palm prints, iris scans and our faces (more details here). The FBI has been developing the database for years, but has only fairly recently begun to add a facial recognition component.
This raises huge concerns about what facial images will be entered into the database, and how those images will be used. DDF worked with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU to urge members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to make NGI an issue during its annual FBI oversight hearing. Unfortunately, no one on the committee asked about the program and what privacy protections might be implemented.
A next line of defense is to insure that the FBI issues a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA). It’s required of all new programs, and in fact, is supposed to be done before even a pilot program is launched. The FBI has not issued a PIA regarding the facial recognition component of NGI, even though it has piloted the program and it appears it is already operational nationwide. To that end, the following letter was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the immediate completion of a PIA. Over 30 privacy and civil liberties organizations joined the letter, which was covered by the National Journal.