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FBI begins installation of $1 billion face recognition system across America
Police State technology and implementation makes further advances
Things on the global Police State front get more frightening and ominous by the day. This latest announcement serves to underline that. The FBI has officially started rolling out a state-of-the-art face recognition project that will assist in their effort to accumulate and archive information about each and every American at a cost of a billion dollars. It is known as the Next Generation Identification (NGI) program. This report comes from Russia Today (rt.com) and quotes an article in New Scientist magazine. The project itself was announced back in 2005 and was part of a project to upgrade the existing Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) that keeps track of citizens with criminal records across America.
But as always with the vast increases in computer processing power, storage and network bandwidth, the temptation to expand and integrate this more widely as usual cannot be resisted. Officially it says: The NGI Program Office mission is to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history information services through research, evaluation and implementation of advanced technology within the IAFIS environment. Nothing too wrong there you might say. However the report says the agency (FBI) says:
“As a result of the NGI initiatives, the FBI will be able to provide services to enhance interoperability between stakeholders at all levels of government, including local, state, federal, and international partners. The report notes: In doing as such, though, the government is now going ahead with linking a database of images and personally identifiable information of anyone in their records with departments around the world thanks to technology that makes fingerprint tracking seem like kids' stuff. . Did you get that? -other departments around the world!Please note as an aside about Facebook.
People may not be aware but a number of years ago there was a significant break-through in the algorithms for face recognition. Indeed as anyone with a Facebook account knows, if you tag a picture of someone with their name, Facebook will automatically scan through all other pictures to see if it can identify that same person and automatically tag all other pictures containing that person with their name. Perhaps some users think this is a really handy feature but it has its flip side. Facebook has about 40 billion face prints.
Getting back to the report it goes on to say:
According to their 2006 report, the NGI program utilizes “specialized requirements in the Latent Services, Facial Recognition and Multi-modal Biometrics areas” that “will allow the FnewBI to establish a terrorist fingerprint identification system that is compatible with other systems; increase the accessibility and number of the IAFIS terrorist fingerprint records; and provide latent palm print search capabilities.” Is that just all, though? During a 2010 presentation (.pdf) made by the FBI’s Biometric Center of Intelligence, the agency identified why facial recognition technology needs to be embraced. Specifically, the FBI said that the technology could be used for “Identifying subjects in public datasets,” as well as “conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations” and “tracking subject movements,” meaning NGI is more than just a database of mug shots mixed up with fingerprints — the FBI has admitted that this their intent with the technology surpasses just searching for criminals but includes spectacular surveillance capabilities. Together, it’s a system unheard of outside of science fictionSo okay lets read that again: ... Specifically, the FBI said that the technology could be used for “Identifying subjects in public datasets,” as well as “conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations” and “tracking subject movements,” The image below is from a presentation showing how the system can zoom in a pick 3 people from a crowd and then recognise that person again in a later shot. If you are not getting worried at this stage, then you have to be brain dead. To continue with the report it says:
New Scientist reports that a 2010 study found technology used by NGI to be accurate in picking out suspects from a pool of 1.6 million mug shots 92 percent of the time. The system was tested on a trial basis in the state of Michigan earlier this year, and has already been cleared for pilot runs in Washington, Florida and North Carolina. Now according to this week’s New Scientist report, the full rollout of the program has begun and the FBI expects its intelligence infrastructure to be in place across the United States by 2014. .... Jim Harper, director of information policy at the Cato Institute, adds to NextGov that investigators pair facial recognition technology with publically available social networks in order to build bigger profiles. Facial recognition "is more accurate with a Google or a Facebook, because they will have anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen pictures of an individual, whereas I imagine the FBI has one or two mug shots," he says. When these files are then fed to law enforcement agencies on local, federal and international levels, intelligence databases that include everything from close-ups of eyeballs and irises to online interests could be shared among offices.And to prove not all US senators are sold on this sort of thing, the report quotes US Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota):
“Once someone has your faceprint, they can get your name, they can find your social networking account and they can find and track you in the street, in the stores you visit, the government buildings you enter, and the photos your friends post online.”As of this stage the program is 60% deployed and the map below shows states where facial recognition (FR) is already in pilot operation. Some readers might think well this is just a US story so so what? As already indicated in the article it explicitly says this will link other with other similar departments worldwide and with certainty we can include the UK seeing they are most eager with this kind of technology, but it is very likely to be deployed in most other countries and is actually mostly likely already being piloted. The ease at which this can be done is really quite simple, because even in little old Ireland, there are already 1000's of cameras and all that is required is to simply divert or send a copy of these data streams to the appropriate centers and simply load the software. Given the enormous bandwidth of fiber optic cables and their widespread presence, it is irrelevant where the data and analysis center is. For all we know the US or UK could simply for a fee be already or plan to, offer to run the service for the Irish and give them private web (or whatever) access to the results. Of course they get to extend their own networks and scoop up the data here essentially for free. The full text of the report can be read at the link below