Compliance Management, Privacy

FBI “facing” questions over its facial recognition database

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has a few questions it would like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to answer about its facial recognition database that contains 411 million photos.

The law enforcement agency's use of a facial recognition system “raises concerns regarding the protection of privacy and individual civil liberties,” the GAO stated in a report published on Wednesday. The watchdog organization specifically criticized the FBI for using facial recognition technology in its criminal investigations, despite lingering questions over “whether it is sufficiently accurate for this use.”

In a report last July, the watchdog raised similar privacy concerns brought on by commercial uses of facial recognition technology.

The facial recognition program grew out of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) biometrics analysis program, which is developing recognition systems to track tattoos, fingerprints, iris, and other biometric indicators.

The FBI is also under scrutiny for not abiding by legislation that protects against the invasion of personal privacy by federal agencies. According to the Privacy Act of 1974, the FBI is required to publish a System of Records Notice (SORN), a notification in a federal register of each system of records that the agency maintains. The GAO report stated that the DOJ has not published a notification of the photos used in the FBI's facial recognition system.

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