FBI facial recognition database proceeds without oversight

A US House of Representatives oversight committee was told in March 2017 that photographs of about half of the adult US population are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI without their knowledge or consent. In addition, about 80% of the photos in the FBI's network are of non-criminals and come from sources such as passports. Eighteen states supply driver's licences under arrangement with the FBI. In response, privacy advocates and politicians called for stronger regulation. Among their concerns: stalking, targeting individuals attending public events such as protests and church meetings, and real-time surveillance. The FBI began augmenting its fingerprint database with these images in 2010. In 2016, the General Accounting Office found the FBI's use of facial recognition to be lacking in accountability, accuracy, and oversight, particularly since the FBI does not test the system for either false positives or racial bias. However, it is known that inaccurate matching disproportionately affects people of colour. 


Writer: Olivia Solon
Publication: Guardian
Publication date: 2017-03-27