By Aaron Kesel
The FBI has failed to assuage concerns of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on its use of facial recognition technology according to a new report.
Numerous issues were raised three years ago after the congressional watchdog urged the FBI to improve its practices in order to meet privacy and accuracy standards expected.
Since 2015, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have used the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System, which uses facial recognition software to link potential suspects to crimes, pulling from a database of more than 30 million mugshots and other photos, Nextgov reported.
The organization then proposed six changes to be made to the FBI’s practices. All of those concerns have been failed to be addressed according to the report.
“By addressing these issues, DOJ would have reasonable assurance that their [facial recognition] technology provides accurate information that helps enhance, rather than hinder, criminal investigations,” Gretta Goodwin, GAO’s director of justice and law enforcement issues, told Nextgov. “Even more, DOJ would help ensure that it is sufficiently protecting the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens.”
One of the recommendations made by auditors to the FBI was to ensure annual tests to guarantee the highest levels of accuracy and effectiveness of its facial recognition technology.
The report slams the FBI for its failure to moderate its use of facial recognition software. This comes as the Bureau increases its use of the technology, currently trialing Amazon’s Facial Rekognition software, which has had its accuracy questioned in the past numerous times.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) further found the FBI is failing to test the accuracy of some of its facial recognition tools developed by third parties such as those programmed by state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“Until FBI officials can assure themselves that the data they receive from external partners are reasonably accurate and reliable, it is unclear whether such agreements are beneficial to the FBI, whether the investment of public resources is justified, and whether photos of innocent people are unnecessarily included as investigative leads,” auditors wrote.
This was deemed unnecessary by the FBI as “no users have expressed concerns” with the system, it claimed.
Auditors responded by stating that annual assessments are mandatory under FBI, Justice Department and Office of Management and Budget policy and are not discussable.
I guess the FBI missed the report when the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California tested Amazon’s facial Rekognition software and the program erroneously and hilariously identified 28 colored members of Congress as people who have been arrested for crimes.
Activist Post previously reported on another test of facial recognition technology in Britain which resulted in 35 false matches and 1 erroneous arrest. So the technology is demonstrated to be far from foolproof.
In 2018 it was reported that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were using this same Amazon Facial Rekognition technology to sift through surveillance data.
Amazon employees who are against the company selling facial recognition technology to the government have protested the company’s decision.
Over 20 groups of shareholders have sent several letters to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.
One letter was sent in June of last year signed by 20 groups of Amazon shareholders sent to Bezos, urging him to stop selling the company’s face recognition software to law enforcement.
“We are concerned the technology would be used to unfairly and disproportionately target and surveil people of color, immigrants, and civil society organizations,” the shareholders, which reportedly include Social Equity Group and Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, wrote. “We are concerned sales may be expanded to foreign governments, including authoritarian regimes.”
Another letter was just sent in January 2019, organized by Open Mic, a nonprofit organization focused on corporate accountability, and was filed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood both letters warned the technology poses “potential civil and human rights risks.”
Numerous civil rights organizations have also co-signed a letter demanding Amazon stop assisting government surveillance; and several members of Congress have expressed concerns about the partnerships.
Several lawmakers have even chimed in to voice concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition software, expressing worry that it could be misused, The Hill reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained hundreds of pages of documents showing Amazon offering the software to law enforcement agencies across the country.
In a 2018 report, the ACLU called Amazon’s facial recognition project a “threat to civil liberties.”
Amazon responded by essentially shrugging off the employees’ and shareholder concerns by the head of the company’s public sector cloud computing business, stating that the team is “unwaveringly” committed to the U.S. government.
“We are unwaveringly in support of our law enforcement, defense and intelligence community,” Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector for Amazon Web Services, said July 20th at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, FedScoop reported.
Amazon has since released an update claiming to fix all of the problems with lighting that caused inaccuracy to its systems according to the company.
Meanwhile, facial recognition technology is being pushed as a new means for an A.I. police state without human involvement — a frightening thought to say the least. Defense One reports that “AI-Enabled Cameras That Detect Crime Before it Occurs Will Soon Invade the Physical World” are in the works and on display at ISC West, a recent security technology conference in Las Vegas.
Activist Post has previously reported in its own way that the rise of facial recognition technology is inevitable and, as a result, the death of one’s privacy is sure to come with it.
This writer has focused on facial recognition technology. From Amazon helping law enforcement with its Facial Rekogntion software, DHS wanting to use it for border control, to the Olympics wanting to use the tech for security.
Even retail is pushing for the technology as an anti-theft mechanism to be introduced in a number of stores using biometric facial recognition software FaceFirst to build a database of shoplifters, as Activist Post reported.
Associated Press reports that now retail is suggesting putting cameras on store shelves to “guess your age and sex.” While some 2,800-odd stores already are equipped with the creepy cameras for advertising and getting to”know your customer.”
As previously written, “we are entering the Minority Report; there is no going back after this technology is public and citizens are indoctrinated that it’s ‘for their safety.’”
The FBI isn’t the only agency having trouble with facial recognition software; an audit report last year detailed the TSA received a “biometric confirmation” rate of 85% for testing purposes at airports.
At this point, we are officially trading liberty and privacy for security. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
The FBI and TSA aren’t the only one facing problems with the accuracy of its facial recognition software. A new report details a New York student identified as Ousmane Bah has sued Apple Inc. for U.S. $1 billion, claiming the company’s facial recognition software falsely linked him to a series of thefts from Apple stores. Just an example of the false arrests to come if this technology is allowed to flourish. According to a recent survey from the Center for Data Innovation, only 1 in 4 Americans is at all concerned about government facial recognition tech, and that number is even lower when it specifically addresses law enforcement.
For more on facial recognition technology and what’s to come for our future, see this writer’s previous article “The Rise Of Facial Recognition Technology Is Now Inevitable.”
Privacy advocate groups, attorneys, and even more recently Microsoft, which also markets its own facial recognition system, have all raised concerns over the technology, pointing to issues of consent, racial profiling, and the potential to use images gathered through facial recognition cameras as evidence of criminal guilt by law enforcement.
“We don’t want to live in a world where government bureaucrats can enter in your name into a database and get a record of where you’ve been and what your financial, political, sexual, and medical associations and activities are,” Jay Stanley, an attorney with ACLU, told BuzzFeed News about the use of facial recognition cameras in retail stores. “And we don’t want a world in which people are being stopped and hassled by authorities because they bear resemblance to some scary character.”
This author wonders if that number will increase when the technology is actually being used openly at retail stores and by law enforcement, a world where governments bureaucrats can enter in your name and get a record of where you’ve been and what your financial, political, sexual and medical associations and activities are. You can thank big corporations like Amazon, who still don’t understand the type of society they are enabling; or maybe Bezos fully understands what he’s doing. After all, Jeff Bezos has a partnership deal with the CIA for $600 million worth of cloud servers. Maybe Bezos is secretly Dr. Evil petting his cat as his surveillance state comes to fruition, so he can rule and control the world through his technology? Amazon’s commitment to establishing a futuristic police state straight out of Strange Days and The Minority Report has to make you wonder.
Aaron Kesel writes for Activist Post. Support us at Patreon. Follow us on Minds, Steemit, SoMee, BitChute, Facebook and Twitter. Ready for solutions? Subscribe to our premium newsletter Counter Markets.
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