After six years and over one billion dollars' worth of development, the FBI has just announced that its new biometric facial recognition software system is finally complete. Meaning that, starting soon, photos of citizens' faces along with tens of millions of others' will be uploaded to the national system on a daily basis.
The Next Generation Identification (NGI) programme looks at a lot more than just faces, though. Thanks to the shared database called the Interstate Photo System (IPS), everything from tattoos to scars to a person's irises could be enough to secure an ID. What's more, the FBI is estimating that NGI will include as many as 52 million individual faces by next year — both criminal and otherwise. So if someone applies for any type of job that requires fingerprinting, for instance, those prints will be sent off to the government for processing.
Of course, the system isn't totally trustworthy yet, as so many video cameras across the country don't hit the resolution necessary for accurate facial recognition. But that's not to say it doesn't work at all. Just a few weeks ago, a 14-year fugitive was finally captured after applying for a visa in Nepal. That accuracy is only going to increase.
Since phase one was deployed in February 2011, the NGI system has introduced enhanced automated fingerprint and latent search capabilities, mobile fingerprint identification, and electronic image storage, all while adding enhanced processing speed and automation for electronic exchange of fingerprints to more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies and other authorised criminal justice partners 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
As cameras get updated and more information gets injected into the already massive database, anonymity — and privacy as a whole — is about to become a lot harder to hold. [FBI]
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