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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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RE: Aha
By BruceLeet on 12/27/2007 10:11:10 AM , Rating: 2
Aha, a know-nothing rant

Have you ever lived in Canada as a status indian? I'm not talkin India-indian, I'm talking First Nations, the ones that were here before "you guys" came over on boats from Europe. :) (how racist does THAT sound looool)

And yes Im exempted from all taxes (yay me) I have a tax-exempt card thats to be used in Canada and it states: This is to certify that (my name here) is an indian within the meaning of the Indian Act, Chapter 27, Statutes of Canada.

I wasn't talking about winning a lottery in America ew I wouldn't pay the lottery there, keep 5% of my winnings, lol no thanks, I'd rather keep 100% of my money, yesss...One Hundred Percect..Excellent! Not to Mention the free health care, the # of homicides in one of Ontario's biggest city (82 this year), How many in my humble town the past 25 years?...3 or 4.

lol I see American rant all the time, about weapons/jets and killing things, I as a Canadian get to brag about positive things :)

To quote you
Majority of the people reading dailytech are not native Indian. So, to quote you, " Your reply, does not apply ".

I can say Im speaking for the status indians that DO NOT browse dailytech, you ignorant man, you!

SAD BUT TRUE!! (damn that song rocks \,,\ )

RE: Aha
By Ringold on 12/27/2007 2:52:07 PM , Rating: 2
Why you would be bragging about how your government allows you to exist as a leech on all of Canadian society because of some events that occured hundreds of years ago is beyond me.

Americans tend to be about the acts of the individual rather than the legacy of the father, though inherited wealth can tweak that. You've inherited something even greater; a life-time meal ticket, at the expense of all your fellow countrymen who pay taxes out the nose.

Personally, I'd be ashamed. However, it seriously undermines your pro-Canadian argument.

As for the lottery, keep in mind some countries count income as a flow and some simply as all income, continuous or not. The US generally goes with the latter. Of course, odds of winning lotteries aren't that big, so not many people care ;)

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