EPIC files lawsuit against FBI to obtain documents about massive biometric identification database

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Tomer Arazy/Flickr

Madison Ruppert
Activist Post

As I reported in 2011, the FBI is involved in collecting and storing the biometric identifiers of millions of Americans under their massive interagency Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. Now the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to learn more.

Keep in mind, EPIC is responsible for exposing everything from Customs and Border Protection using drones in the U.S. capable of eavesdropping to details about the highly secretive “Stingray” cell phone surveillance technology to DHS lying to Congress about their Big Brother policies to the NSA monitoring private U.S. computer networks to lies about body scanners to creepy DHS threat assessment technology to the fact that we’ll never know the true nature of the NSA-Google relationship and so much more.

According to a recent press release, EPIC, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit after the FBI refused to respond to earlier FOIA requests seeking technical specifications and contracts for the system.

This is far from a minor issue, as EPIC pointedly notes in the complaint, “When completed, the NGI system will be the largest biometric database in the world.”

The NGI is a multifaceted system that encompasses just about every biometric marker imaginable (though maybe not pedo-biometrics at this stage) and facial recognition technology is currently being rolled out in some unidentified areas.

Indeed, according to a July 18, 2012 FBI report, “The NGI program—which is on scope, on schedule, on cost, and 60 percent deployed—is enabling the FBI to meet its criminal justice mission and continue to build its reputation as the global leader in biometrics.”

“NGI aggregates fingerprints, DNA profiles, iris scans, palm prints, voice identification profiles, photographs, and other identifying information,” according to EPIC, painting a troubling picture of what the system is capable of.

EPIC states that the FBI will use facial recognition technology – which has become unbelievably fast – to match images captured by surveillance cameras and other means with their massive database.

Of course, the fact that the FBI is sharing facial recognition technology with police departments across the United States helps the centralized database grow even faster.

We should not assume, however, that it will only be used for matching static images with the gigantic centralized database.

Indeed, if we can take a 2010 presentation by the FBI Biometric Center of Intelligence as any indicator, we can assume that it will be used for much more.

In the course of the presentation, the FBI stated that facial recognition could not only be used for “Identifying subjects in public datasets” but also for “conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations” and “tracking subject movements.”

“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,” EPIC states.

“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,” the group adds.

The picture begins to get quite grim when we consider these facts and bears more resemblance to science fiction than what most people like to think is reality.

“There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the United States,” EPIC continues. “The NGI system will be integrated with CCTV cameras operated by public agencies and private entities.”

Don’t forget, that is only the facial recognition aspect. In addition, handheld devices have been developed to allow police officers to conduct iris scans.

Indeed, in New York City, Occupy Wall Street activists had their bail negatively affected by refusing iris scans, in complete contradiction to New York state law.

“The New York City Police Department began scanning irises of arrestees in 2010; these sorts of records will be entered into NGI,” according to EPIC.

EPIC states that the NGI database will actually be available to private entities completely unrelated to a law enforcement agency, which might be an even larger problem for those who do not see a problem with the government having unrestricted access to their biometric identifiers.

There are strong reasons to be concerned the involvement of private entities, evidenced by a biometrics company attempting – and, thankfully, failing – to sell their database.

Concerns are raised even more when we consider how many companies are involved in the deployment of NGI, not to mention the fact that the system will be available to as of now unknown private entities.

They include, “Lockheed Martin, IBM, Accenture, BAE Systems Information Technology, Global Science & Technology (“GST”), Innovative Management & Technology Services (“IMTS”), and Platinum Solutions,” according to EPIC.

Do you think this is a legitimate issue of concern or just overblown paranoia? Share this article and let us know what you think on our Facebook page, Twitter, or by leaving a comment on this post.

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This article first appeared at End the Lie.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. He is available for podcast and radio interviews. Madison also now has his own radio show on UCYTV Monday nights 7 PM – 9 PM PT/10 PM – 12 AM ET. Show page link here: http://UCY.TV/EndtheLie. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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