from the you-can-trust-us dept.
MrSeb writes "The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has begun rolling out its new $1 billion biometric Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. In essence, NGI is a nationwide database of mugshots, iris scans, DNA records, voice samples, and other biometrics that will help the FBI identify and catch criminals — but it is how this biometric data is captured, through a nationwide network of cameras and photo databases, that is raising the eyebrows of privacy advocates. Until now, the FBI relied on IAFIS, a national fingerprint database that has long been due an overhaul. Over the last few months, the FBI has been pilot testing a face recognition system, which will soon be scaled up (PDF) until it's nationwide. In theory, this should result in much faster positive identifications of criminals and fewer unsolved cases. The problem is, the FBI hasn't guaranteed that the NGI will only use photos of known criminals. There may come a time when the NGI is filled with as many photos as possible, from as many sources as possible, of as many people as possible — criminal or otherwise. Imagine if the NGI had full access to every driving license and passport photo in the country — and DNA records kept by doctors, and iris scans kept by businesses. The FBI's NGI, if the right checks and balances aren't in place, could very easily become a tool that decimates civilian privacy and freedom."