Report: FBI’s Facial Recognition Database Is ‘Out of Control’

Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

The facial recognition database used by the FBI is “out of control,” according to a new report by The Guardian.

“Approximately half of adult Americans’ photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals,” reported The Guardian on Monday. “About 80% of photos in the FBI’s network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver’s licenses and passports. The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are more likely to misidentify black people than white people.”

“These are just some of the damning facts presented at last week’s House oversight committee hearing, where politicians and privacy campaigners criticized the FBI and called for stricter regulation of facial recognition technology at a time when it is creeping into law enforcement and business,” they continued.

During the committee hearing, chairman Jason Chaffetz praised the positives of using facial recognition technology before also raising concerns about some of the more negative potential uses.

“Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation… But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals,” declared Chaffetz. “It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public.”

“For those reasons and others, we must conduct proper oversight of this emerging technology,” he continued, adding that body cameras with the potential to scan faces while walking down the street were the “most concerning.”

In their report, The Guardian added, “Unlike with the collection of fingerprints and DNA, which is done following an arrest, photos of innocent civilians are being collected proactively.”

“The FBI made arrangements with 18 different states to gain access to their databases of driver’s license photos,” they explained, adding, “Last year, the US government accountability office (GAO) analyzed the FBI’s use of facial recognition technology and found it to be lacking in accountability, accuracy and oversight, and made recommendations of how to address the problem.”

Brian Brackeen, CEO of the movie and theme park facial recognition company Kairos, also criticized the lack of regulation for facial recognition software and databases, proclaiming the commercial side of the industry to be “five years ahead” of FBI.

According to The Guardian, Brackeen claimed “he was ‘not comfortable’ with the lack of regulation,” before adding “There has got to be privacy protections for the individual.”

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington or like his page at Facebook.


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