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back to article EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database

The FBI is planning to expand the facial recognition components of its biometrics database to catalog and search the faces of more than 52 million individuals, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The group has released a cache of documents it obtained from the bureau by way of a Freedom of Information Act suit …

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Anonymous Coward

"outside contractors" - this would be Facebook?

also, anyone who would work for an organisation that takes mugshots plus fingerprints deserves everything they get.

the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and that entails taking a stand at some personal cost. the time for bleating about human rights is long gone: actions speak louder than words.

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[A}n organisation that takes mugshots plus fingerprints

In the US that would be every Federal, state, or local government agency, every bank, every hospital, and a great many others. Also included would be military dependents and, at their option, military and civilian retirees.

The time for vigilance, arguably, is past.

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Anonymous Coward

the price of liberty is eternal vigilance

Hey, there are other uses. If they use selfies as source material, they would apparently build up a database of people with a mental condition. Must be worth quite a bit of money to the Health Insurance industry to deny claims as "pre-existing condition"..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: [A}n organisation that takes mugshots plus fingerprints

The time for vigilance, arguably, is past.

The time for vigilance is only past when you give up, which is what they would really, really want you to do. Well, screw that, I'm not going to.

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Re: [A}n organisation that takes mugshots plus fingerprints

"that would be every Federal, state, or local government agency, every bank, every hospital, and a great many others..."

What about THE American Dream? Don't like what's out there, go your own way. Start your own business, no need to send any mugshots... AND you can attract like-minded people as employees by advertising as a plus for working for you that you will never ask for employee fingerprints / photos.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: [A}n organisation that takes mugshots plus fingerprints

I like the idea, although it's sad that "we will respect your Human Rights" can now be used as an incentive.

Having said that, the idea is unrealistic. You would not want to start with a promise that you can be legally forced to break - US law can make you. All any official has to do is suggest that a member of staff is a terrorist, a pedo or a foreigner alien and they have legal means to make you provide whatever they want.

It's almost like China, but with better marketing.

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Re: [A}n organisation that takes mugshots plus fingerprints

In the US that would be every Federal, state, or local government agency, every bank, every hospital, and a great many others. Also included would be military dependents and, at their option, military and civilian retirees.

And their wives, boyfriends, and tennis partners.

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Big Brother

"the facial recognition system...

"... is intended to be used only as an investigative lead and will be restricted to use by authorized law enforcement agencies"

And we all believe them, don't we, boys and girls?

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Black Helicopters

Re: "the facial recognition system...

not in the slightest, and when you listen to the radio in the "out of town" places here in the USA, neither does anyone else.

Have an upvote^100.

P.

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Re: "the facial recognition system...

authorized law enforcement agencies... and that would be?

I'm guessing all of them. Parking enforcement, the works.

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Won't somebody think of the agents?

Soon after this is implemented all the criminals in the USA will be caught - how could it fail with continual automatic CCTV identification of all 51Million bad guys - and then what will happen to all the FBI agents?

Will they all be reduced to collecting used cans in shopping carts - along with all the police officers?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Won't somebody think of the agents?

It appears you HAVE managed to identify a benefit after all :)

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Angel

A whole new definition

for the term "moon shot" ... bend over and moon the surveilance camera!

Identify that, fibbie!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A whole new definition

I wouldn't bend too deep or they'll use your dental records for identification :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A whole new definition

Ah Ben Affleck I presume

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Anonymous Coward

The road to Dystopia

Appropriately supine populace with proper fear of 'terror' - check

Invasive communications surveillance - check

Suitably draconian laws with little effective oversight - check

Automated visual ID of miscreants - In progress

Not entirely unconnected to the sentiment of this story was a BBC news piece on a complaint to the IPCC against Lancashire police for Tasering two blokes who refused to remove their boxer shorts during a strip search in a police cell, apparently after being on the end of 'inappropriate language'. The IPCC found that the use of the Taser was justified in this case, in spite of the fact the blokes in question were probably somewhat outnumbered in a small room very much under police control.

When the UK fuzz first got their hands on the taser, they were gushing with assurances that it was a tool of last resort for use against violent, out of control suspects who represented a danger to the public, the police officers and potentially themselves. A tasering would be the 'safest' option in extreme circumstances. It didn't take long for the police to go far beyond the stated remit, and a couple of thousand reported uses and half a dozen deaths that may-or-may-not-be-connected later, the 'last resort' appears to now extend to refusing to get yer kit off for the lads on demand.

What really struck me about the story though was the overall image it presents to the disinterested observer; of officially sanctioned casual pacification delivered with seemingly disproportionate force and little regard for the IPCCs 'exceptional circumstances', of a kind that might look familiar to anyone used to the behaviour of police in the developing world or who reads dystopian fiction. To me, it's an ugly picture of law enforcement more interested in what can be validated with a rubber stamp than what's actually proportionate.

We may not live in a totalitarian regime, but between technology and laws that increasingly seem to be employed more for the purposes of easy wins than the ends of genuine justice, and an official mindset that seems to view any dissent as a challenge to authority and the population as potential threats or enemies rather than employers, we are certainly assembling an attractive toolkit for anyone less than democratically minded who either ends up in charge, or who contrives to control those who are.

A close friend comes from the part of Germany that gave Hitler his first real political backing, propelling him as a player onto the national political stage. You'd never guess to look at the place now, but the largely legitimate political concerns and aspirations the local population had at the time were picked up and used in a way quite other than what they had in mind when they voted, as were many laws and institutions in the years that followed. Hitler may be an extreme and perhaps over cited example, but it happened, and history is full of people who didn't see that what they were building would prove to be their downfall. I wonder what chance we really have of doing any better.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The road to Dystopia

There is an easy way to declare a taser for what it is and the impact of its use: replace it with "whip" and see how the story reads then. Just because it has a different name it makes it no less a tool of torture, but with less visible aftereffects, there is no material difference in its use and the effect on the target (well, OK, you need to aim better).

Having said that, if we approve of the use of tasers, we should actually not have a problem with assigning whips. Apart from some apparent afflictions in a British population which could make this move accidentally very popular (cough :) ), it does the same thing and leaves an, umm, audit trail of its use. It's also a heck of a lot cheaper and more eco friendly..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The road to Dystopia

So our faces will be scanned and catalogued at airports, train stations and on street corners worldwide (think UK, for starters), if it isn't happening already.

Methinks dystopian science fiction became reality a long time ago.

How long will it be before State actors systematically use this tech to track and nab parking violators, litterers, non-recyclers and other thought criminals, state-enemies and social miscreants (...whoops.. are we too late already)?

A frightened, economically-handicapped population is way easier to Taser into submission than a group of gum-chewing, tobacco-spitting rebels. Maybe the gun-nuts, gold-bugs and survivalists have a point.

It it weren't for orgs like the EFF, legislation like the FOIA, Edward Snowden and a few journalists (whose numbers are slowly growing) Joe Sixpack (and many others) wouldn't know about half of this shit.

Whether or not Joe and his fellow citizens will actually do something about this (other than switch channels) is another question. In most parts of America fixed speed cameras are non-existent (the repair bills are too expensive) but private and public security cameras are cropping up everywhere.

Government surveillance needs to heavliy scaled down or restricted. The IMC politicos who love it so much need to be shown the door. Unfortunately, there are just too few sensible people to replace them, so the merry-go-round continues.

Fuck me..... what we really need is a Middle-Class American revolution (also the topic of some fun novels).

Tinfoil hats on the left, shotguns and spray-cans on the right.

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Re: The road to Dystopia

Your last paragraph made me think of western hatred of burkas, and the inequality they symbolize. Ironically, we may all wish we could wear them to hide from the growing authoritarian state!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The road to Dystopia

"There is an easy way to declare a taser for what it is and the impact of its use: replace it with "whip" and see how the story reads then."

Thats about the size of it; change the setting and the tool and it's history rather than news, the mistakes stay the same.

There was a report mentioned in the register a few years ago entitled "Electronic Police State 2008". One particularly chilling phrase from it stuck in my mind as a pretty good summation of the world we're either moving towards or perhaps living in now:

"An electronic police state is quiet, even unseen. All of its legal actions are supported by abundant evidence. It looks pristine."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The road to Dystopia

Hitler is NOT the best analogy.....the STASI regime in East Germany is a much better match. Interesting that this STASI analogy will almost certainly come to President Obama's attention when Angela Merkel visits the White House in the next few days. MS. Merkel will probably put the STASI and NSA recordings of her own phone conversations IN THE SAME SENTENCE!

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Unhappy

Re: The road to Dystopia

"Merkel will probably put the STASI and NSA recordings of her own phone conversations IN THE SAME SENTENCE!"

We can but hope.

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Anonymous Coward

One small problem

"...what we really need is a Middle-Class American revolution"

That requires a middle class.

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Fuzzy data

What we need is some software capable of altering a photo so that it looks right to the human eye, but is wrong for the computer algorithm. I am thinking of the way you can remove large parts from a piece of written text - eg all the vowels - and mostly people can read it fine but a computer can't.

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Trollface

Bah!

So remind me: *Why* do I have to take my glasses off for my biometric green card picture?

More star trek make-believe tech that will hemorrhage money and never work reliably. I smell Tronixco lobbyist and politician stink all over this one.

Next up: beards outlawed (can't outlaw glasses thanks to Google).

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I was wrong

I thought they had already done this.. quietly and without fanfare. Mugshots are commonplace on the interwebs as are selfies. But, I guess the announcement worked. I feel so much safer. NOT!!!!!!

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Meh

Hold up. I thought I read a story about the FBI *disbanding* it's face recogwork because..

It didn't work.

IIRC The programme had been running since about 1963 and never got > 50% accuracy.

So what's changed?

Either the FBI work was way behind the SoA or someone had convinced the FBI they can do better.

Much better.

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Anonymous Coward

Works 4 me

Sounds like a good means to identify crims.

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"the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and that entails taking a stand at some personal cost. the time for bleating about human rights is long gone: actions speak louder than words"

What do all of these clichés mean in this context?

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