FBI’s biometric facial recognition system presents civil liberties issue

In the post-9/11 years, the FBI has been compiling a database of photographs for its biometric facial recognition system. While some of the photographs come from mugshots or soldiers who have taken pictures of suspected terrorists, other photos come from driver’s license pictures from state DMV offices, so that average citizens with no history of suspected criminal conduct may be included in the database. Overall, the FBI has compiled over 500 million photographs in its database, making many critics fear this will lead to broader government surveillance and other civil liberty issues. Of over 70,000 photos of suspects provided to the FBI to compare against photos in the database, approximately 9,000 lead to the identification of “likely candidates.” In a 2013 lawsuit filed to obtain internal documents regarding this new center, it was discovered that the system had an error rate of 20%, leading to even greater concerns from privacy advocates that citizens will erroneously be targeted in criminal investigations.


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