Tech

FBI Expanding Facial-Recognition Database to Include Non-Criminal U.S. Citizens

By | Aug 13, 2014 11:48 PM EDT
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Facial-recognition technology used by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) led to the arrest of a professional juggler in Nepal on the run for 14 years. The man was sought for skipping bail on sexual abuse charges.

Street performer Neil Stammer travelled to Nepal eight years ago with a fake passport, using the name Kevin Hodges.

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Using cutting-edge facial-recognition software, a photo on Stammer's fake passport was matched with a wanted poster released by the FBI last January. Stammer, who once operated a magic shop in New Mexico, has been extradited to the United States to face trial.

Facial-recognition software is being used by the FBI to sort through the its wanted posters to quickly compare them with passport photos. The technology, designed by the Diplomatic Security System, was specifically designed to check for passport and visa fraud.

"Diplomatic Security works with our international and federal law enforcement partners to bring fugitives like Stammer home to face justice, said Barry Moore, FBI deputy assistant secretary for domestic operations.

Although fingerprints have long been collected at entry points in the U.S., the collection of more biometric data will soon be part of a traveler's routine.

The FBI is currently focused on creating a facial-recognition database as part of its Next Generation Identification (NGI) program. The agency is also gathering more information on people who travel in and out of the U.S.

Aside from photos, the database also stores iris scans, finger prints and palm prints. From the 16 million images it contained in 2013, the database is capable of storing over 52 million by 2015.

The FBI claims the database and the collection of more biometric data will reduce terrorism and criminal activities.

Civil liberties group Electric Frontier Foundation, however, has concerns that data from non-criminals are being collected as well.


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