FBI is Holding 411 Million Pictures of People’s Faces

The amount of data being captured and processed by the USA government continues to grow, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report showing that the FBI holds more than 411 million pictures of faces in a database.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is amassing more than 411 million pictures of faces, the database is used to power a facial recognition software that was initially intended to store information of criminals. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. Often called the “congressional watchdog,” GAO investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

Today the GAO publically released a report raising concerns about the operations of the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS) -a software used by the FBI to store and use pictures of criminal’s faces-. The investigation showed that the FBI is also collecting information of non-criminals:

The FBI has entered into agreements to search and access external databases — including millions of U.S. citizens’ drivers’ license and passport photos — but until FBI officials can assure themselves that the data they receive from external partners are reasonably accurate and reliable, it is unclear whether such agreements are beneficial to the FBI and do not unnecessarily include photos of innocent people as investigative leads

The database is holding pictures of driver’s licences, visas, sentenced criminals, and citizens under active trial. The GAO report also raises doubts about the accuracy of the facial recognition software. According to the report:

When a state or local agency submits such a photo, NGI-IPS uses an automated process to return a list of 2 to 50 possible candidate photos from the database, depending on the user’s specification.

The NGI-IPS system began operations in 2015 after three years of testing. the goal of the mission was to store facial pictures of all the criminals in the USA, however, the database now contains more than 173 million picture from drivers licences and 100 million pictures from foreigners. The software is fully operational in Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Texas.

Source: GAO