FBI sued for selling Americans’ biometric data to private companies

| April 24, 2013

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a non-profit privacy advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit against the FBI over the use of its new Next Generation Identification System (NGIS). Privacy advocates and experts are purportedly suing the federal intelligence agency in order to protect personal, identifiable information on the grounds of non-disclosure, citing concerns about the FBI’s misuse of biometric data.

WND reports, “The complaint explains that the FBI announced in 2009 the NGI system was being created to record, analyze and use biometrics of U.S. citizens – whether they know that their details have been recorded or not.”

Biometric Camera

Military official uses a biometric camera to store data for a worker (Image via the U.S. Army)

The organization has appealed to the Washington court under the Freedom of Information Act, accusing the FBI of disclosing information about the program’s contracts with private companies. The group wanted to know who would get access to Americans’ biometrics and why.” The complaint mentions, “The danger was made clear when a private company was found trying to sell its biometric database of American consumers after its parent company, Verified Identity Pass, collapsed into bankruptcy”.

EPIC reveals that once completed, NGI “will be the largest biometric database in the world.” Along with integrating information from the network of surveillance cameras installed across the country, NGI will also include DNA mapping, voice samples, photographs, palm and fingerprints, iris scans, scars, tattoos and more.

A greater concern about this system is that it can be used with other technologies like facial recognition, threat assessment algorithms and Future Attribute Screening technology to make an intricate profile of individuals- from body characteristics to social behavior and habits. (Source: endthelie.com)

According to FBI, The framework will be expandable, scalable, and flexible to accommodate new technologies and biometric standards, and will be interoperable with existing systems. Once developed and implemented, the NGI initiatives and multimodal functionality will promote a high level of information sharing, support interoperability, and provide a foundation for using multiple biometrics for positive identification.” (Source: wnd.com)

According to Alan Butler, a lawyer at EPIC, “bringing such a wide variety of publicly available information makes it more likely for such a system to target innocent people and abuse civil liberties.”

surveillance cameras

You are being watched, excessively (Image via laverrue)

EPIC is doubtful about the use of biometric database. The organization thinks that the information about “people who are not criminals and are not even suspects of crimes” will be misused. “Some law enforcement officers have already been using handheld devices to scan irises and faces of individuals and match them with biometric databases. Also, some school districts now are requiring children to provide biometric identifiers, such as palm prints.

It is believed that many states are currently providing NGI its biometric data. These states include Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The FBI, on the other hand, is touting the NGI as a way “to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal history through research evaluation and implementation of advanced technology.”

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Category: News, Surveillance