Big Brother Getting Bigger Part 1: USA

Summary:Eek, from Slashdot today:The FBI has confirmed to Popular Mechanics that it's not only adding palm prints to its criminal records, but preparing to balloon its repository of photos, which an agency official says 'could be the basis for our facial recognition.' It's all part of a new biometric software system that could store millions of iris scans within 10 years and has privacy advocates crying foul.

US Patriot Act
Eek, from Slashdot today:

The FBI has confirmed to Popular Mechanics that it's not only adding palm prints to its criminal records, but preparing to balloon its repository of photos, which an agency official says 'could be the basis for our facial recognition.' It's all part of a new biometric software system that could store millions of iris scans within 10 years and has privacy advocates crying foul. Quoting: 'The FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which could cost as much as $1 billion over its 10-year life cycle, will create an unprecedented database of biometric markers, such as facial images and iris scans. For criminal investigators, NGI could be as useful as DNA some day — a distinctive scar or a lopsided jaw line could mean the difference between a cold case and closed one. And for privacy watchdogs, it's a duel threat — seen as a step toward a police state, and a gold mine of personal data waiting to be plundered by cybercriminals.

Read more thoughts on the subject here:

The Slashdot article mentions that Privacy advocates are up in arms over this, and rightly so.  From the Washington Post article that Slashdot comments on:

To enable global sharing of data, NGI is to be built to technical standards shared by the departments of Homeland Security, Defense and State, as well as by Britain, Canada and other countries, Bush said.

Which is great, because those organizations have such a prooven track record of building things to secure technical standards (you should note the sarcasm).  The Washington Post article continues:

The FBI also hopes to offer a service allowing employers to store employees' prints, subject to state privacy laws, so that if employees are ever arrested, the employer would be notified.

Great.  Joint privacy abuse by government and commercial... exactly what America needs more of.  A final point about privacy from the Washington Post article:

Privacy advocates said that the work is proceeding before the technologies have been prooven. "Congress needs to do a better job of assessing how taxpayer dollars are being spent, particularly on programs that impact the privacy rights of Americans," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

That bold portion reads so obvious, but there it is.  We're going to spend billions on something that is eroding our privacy.  It's a celebration, so enjoy yourself.

Minority Report
You know, I think I watched a movie about this... there were these things called pre-cogs and they could predict the future...  and they'd know if you committed a crime before you knew you'd commit the crime.  Then these military police forces would come arrest you and you'd have no idea what was going on, and there was no point in running, because all over the streets were these biometric devices that could scan your face and recognize you and have the police on you within seconds.  No point in running, that is, unless you are Tom Cruise.

Despite my fiendishly good looks and charming wit, I am not Tom Cruise, and this scares the jeebus out of me from a privacy standpoint (that's not a mis-spell, it's a Homer Simpson quote).  I'm not sure I'm as worried about the police using it against me (since I'm not a criminal), as I am about the precedence it starts to create.  I think that technology is currently far outpacing our government's capability of keeping up with it, which I'm assuming puts the fear into them.  I fear a world where our government makes snap decisions on things it may not understand that could have lasting ramifications.  I also fear the rapid loss of our civil liberties that's occurred since 9/11. 

-Nate

[Images courtesy of Dublin University Science Fiction Society and Farces]

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Topics: Security, Government, Government : US, Legal

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