Facial recognition technology and surveillance have been cohabiting for a long time, but today the FBI announced it’s officially wedding itself to a $1 billion program intended to help supplant older, traditional methods (think: fingerprinting) of identifying and tracking individuals.
The new facial recognition system is to be deployed alongside other features in the ongoing rollout of the FBI’s so-called “Next Generation Identification” program, a biometric detection infrastructure which relies on big data to more reliably (according to the FBI) identify and keep tabs on surveillance subjects.
“The vast majority of records contained in the NGI database will be of US citizens,” the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) writes:
The system will include facial recognition capabilities to analyze collected images. Millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects will be included in the database. Many of these individuals will be unaware that their images and other biometric identifiers are being captured. Drivers license photos and other biometric records collected by civil service agencies could be added to the system. The NGI system could be integrated with other surveillance technology, such as Trapwire, that would enable real-time image-matching of live feeds from CCTV surveillance cameras. The Department of Homeland Security has expended hundreds of millions of dollars to establish state and local surveillance systems, including CCTV cameras that record the routine activities of millions of individuals. There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States. The NGI system will be integrated with CCTV cameras operated by public agencies and private entities.
Moreover, third parties are already attempting to develop crime prevention platforms that could make the FBI’s next-generation program seem antiquated. Check this out.
As The Hill reported Monday, the FBI is denying that it will collect and store information on citizens not under suspicion of criminal activity. But that hasn’t assuaged the concerns of a burgeoning grass-roots anti-surveillance culture in the U.S., which is attempting to develop low-tech methods of its own to thwart unconstitutional mass surveillance — even if it entails making yourself look ridiculous in the process.