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The Federal Bureau of Investigation announces its intention to create a stronger, better, faster database using biometric data

Biometrics is already something of a buzz word, with more and more of its applications in places like train stations, airports and even Walt Disney World.  Governmental agencies borrowed the word as of late for more interesting projects: identifying people based on intrinsic physical or behavioral traits.

The FBI in particular is no exception, the agency plans to award a 10-year contract with a one billion dollar tab to expand the quantity and quality of its biometric data.

Biometric information can include many things such as fingerprints, palm prints, iris and corneal scans, facial structure, noticeable markings, stride and even innocuous personal behavior like typing rhythm and mouse gestures. The project, dubbed Next Generation Identification (NGI), is set to gather all types of bio-data and store in one location for identification and forensics purposes.

The database would be accessible by many law enforcement and government agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, which already uses iris scans at airports to allow people who have passed background checks to move through airport security more quickly; and the Defense Department, which has been collecting data on Iraqi and Afghan detainees for the past two years.

The database could be used to identify known or suspected criminals or terrorists by matching facial structure, iris scans or the gait of walk via cameras in places of interest like bus stations or airports. The eventual goal will be to identify threats in real-time without human intervention.

Detractors to the FBI's plans claim that such a database has many pitfalls. Gathered data, if incorrect or stolen, could prove a serious problem for ordinary citizens that become victims of the system's imperfections.

The new database differs from the TALON database forced out of operation last September.  Whereas TALON stored data on individuals as reported by field officers, NGI's data will largely stem from autonomous data acquisition sources -- like cameras and sensors.  However, data from NGI will be used in conjunction with entries in the Bureau's Guardian Threat Tracking System; a database that took over TALON's entries after its demise.

"It's going to be an essential component of tracking. It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union in a Washington Post article last week.

While the idea does ring of an Orwellian society, agencies like the Department of Homeland Security would benefit from such an overt system, should it work as planned. The FBI is working with the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR) to make live scanning a reality. CITeR is working on scanning processes that would be able to identify a person by iris scan at up to 15 feet and face-shape by 200 yards. The Center will begin to work with the FBI on biometric research in the near future.

Voicing in on access and privacy concerns, Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division stated "we have very stringent laws that control who can go in there and to secure the data." Presently over 900,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers have access to the FBI's fingerprint database. The number could increase as more agencies and officials gain access to the growing biometrics database.

More than just privacy advocates have shown disdain for the database.  A recent study in Germany using facial recognition technology garnered a 60 percent matches success rate during optimal lighting conditions. The accuracy plummeted as low as 10 percent in low-light situations. The German law-enforcement agency tolerated a false positive rate of 0.1 percent, or 23 people of the roughly 23,000 that passed through the train station where the study was done.

Homeland security and false identification of criminals aside, the system could have other merits if used by other federal and state institutions like hospitals and missing persons units. Various biometric data could be used to identify victims of crimes, along with possible evidence towards their culprits, or to find missing or runaway children who might happen to pass through an area with an active scanning system.

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By hitman699 on 12/26/2007 10:26:30 PM , Rating: 2
a group of people crashed into some buildings.. and the governement keeps on building and building and building on it. every day another right is is given away in the interest of protecting us... private things..books you take out at the store.. nope.. calls walking down the street..nope..

american citizens in military court rather then having a "trial" in the american justice system..(i can see people picked up on the battlefield..but a citizen should ALWAYS get a trial in US court regardless of where hes picked up or what for) next currency will be outlawed and the govt will issue us debit cards so they can protectist from terrorists buying terrorist stuff. and so on and so on.. absolutly scary where we are going with this. and I generally support the government..

RE: scary...
By Ringold on 12/27/2007 12:37:09 AM , Rating: 5
and I generally support the government..

I think this possibly begs the question.. If both parties are in on it, who does one vote for? There is no viable national Libertarian Party at the moment..

Typically, I'm all for whatever can be done to stop terrorists. On the other hand, every time the citizens let the government get their foot in the door, government muscles in and takes over the house. Income taxes were once targeted a few rich families; now it's a full blown wealth redistribution scheme so wretched as to be unconstitutional (until they changed the constitution). Social Security was a temporary fix for the Great Depression, along with so many various farm and infrastructure subsidies; now they all spiral out of control heading for bankruptcy, agencies that took on a life of their own, impossible to kill.

They all made sense at the time -- the first income tax was a tool to pay for the Civil War, and then abandoned. As for the New Deal garbage, well, they didn't know that at the time.

But then one considers how this will morph, grow, and take on a life of its own. How will it expand? How will future governments use it? Then it gets scary.

I shall quote the only Frenchman with balls in the known universe, Captain Picard, modified by me:

I will not sacrifice liberty . We've made too many compromises already. Too many retreats. They invade our bedrooms and we fall back. They assimilate entire aspects of our private lives and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!"

RE: scary...
By ThePooBurner on 12/27/2007 1:04:29 AM , Rating: 2
If i hadn't posted, and had the ability to rate people up (i haven't been posting long enough to get to do this yet) i would have given you a 6. I Agree, and the picard quote just adds that much more to it :)

RE: scary...
By kyp275 on 12/27/2007 6:06:10 AM , Rating: 2
+10 for Picard quote :D

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference
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