FBI busted by watchdog group over massive cache of facial photos

We as Americans tend to give the FBI a fairly wide berth.  What they do in the shadows of their profession is likely none of our business, nor could the average citizen understood the intricacies of certain aspects of their scope.  Often times it’s best to just let them be.

But what happens when this clandestine intelligence juggernaut turns its attention toward American citizens?  And what if the tools at their disposal could be used to keep tabs on us in ways that only George Orwell could ever imagine?

One whistleblower believes that may already be the case.

A government watchdog says the FBI has access to about 640 million photographs — including from driver’s licenses, passports and mugshots — that can be searched using facial recognition technology.

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The figure reflects how the technology is becoming an increasingly powerful law enforcement tool, but is also stirring fears about the potential for authorities to intrude on the lives of Americans. It was reported by the Government Accountability Office at a congressional hearing in which both Democrats and Republicans raised questions about the use of the technology.

The Bureau attempted to downplay the severity of this overreach.

The FBI maintains a database known as the Interstate Photo System of mugshots that can help federal, state and local law enforcement officials. It contains about 36 million photographs, according to Gretta Goodwin of the GAO.

But taking into account the bureau contracts providing access to driver’s licenses in 21 states, and its use of photos and other databases, the FBI has access to about 640 million photographs, Goodwin told lawmakers at the House oversight committee hearing.

As facial recognition technology grows ever-more sophisticated, there are concerns that it could be used to monitor American citizens in their everyday lives.  This would be the effective end of privacy as we know it, and allow police and other authorities to focus their attention in ways that go against the very essences of our Constitutional guarantee against unlawful search and seizure.


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