The FBI has a biometric database, and they don’t want there to be any privacy protections on it. We JUST posted about how this week the federal appeals court gave the feds carte blanche to pull your entire location history from your cell phone provider without a warrant. The other half of that very dangerous coin is this story, also at EFF.
Since 2008, the FBI has been assembling a massive database of biometric information on Americans. This database, called Next Generation Identification (NGI), includes fingerprints, face recognition, iris scans and palm prints—collected not just during arrests, but also from millions of Americans for non-criminal reasons like immigration, background checks, and state licensing requirements. Now the FBI wants to exempt this vast collection of data from basic requirements guaranteed under the federal Privacy Act—and it’s giving you only 21 business days to object.
The sneaky part is that the FBI took their non-criminal database (where your data probably is), and merged it with their criminal database. Here’s how that looks.
NGI contains well over 100-million individual records that include multiple forms of biometric data as well as personal and biographic information. Although many people assume the FBI’s files only include fingerprints and other data associated with criminal activity, much of these records—nearly 50-million individual files—contain data collected for non-criminal purposes. For example, in some states, you’ll need to give the government your prints if you want to be a dentist, accountant, teacher, geologist, realtor, lawyer or even an optometrist. And, since 1953, all jobs with the federal government have required a fingerprint check—not just jobs requiring a security clearance, but even part-time food service workers, student interns, designers, customer service representatives, and maintenance workers.
Just last year, the FBI announced that for the first time it would combine almost all of this non-criminal data with its criminal data in NGI. This means that now, if you submit fingerprints for licensing or for a background check, they’ll most likely end up living indefinitely in NGI—to be searched thousands of times a day for any crime, no matter how minor, by over 20,000 law enforcement agencies across the country and around the world.
Wait a minute. One massive database that gets searched thousands of times a day by law enforcement officers, where your data is.
And while the FBI has said—for now—it’s keeping non-criminal photographs separate from criminal photos in NGI, if you’re ever arrested for any crime—even for blocking a street as part of a First Amendment-protected protest—your non-criminal photographs will be combined with your criminal record and will become fair game for the same criminal database searches as any mug shot photo. As of December 2015, over 8-million civil records were also in the criminal database.
Location data from your cell phone provider, no warrant needed, plus the huge trove of biographical and biometric data. No, you don’t live in a surveillance state at all.