Right around Christmas, I wrote about a new FBI program to build a massive, $1 billion database of biometric data. I quoted a WaPo story that said:
Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists.
I'm not totally sure if this is the same program but Tuesday (UK time) the British paper the Guardian reported that the US and the assorted members of the British Commonwealth -- the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand -- have formed a working group to explore bringing the nations' biometric data together into a huge "server in the sky."
The FBI told the Guardian: "Server in the Sky is an FBI initiative designed to foster the advanced search and exchange of biometric information on a global scale. While it is currently in the concept and design stages, once complete it will provide a technical forum for member nations to submit biometric search requests to other nations. It will maintain a core holding of the world's 'worst of the worst' individuals. Any identifications of these people will be sent as a priority message to the requesting nation."
In Britain, the key database is called IDENT1 and it holds 7 million sets of fingerprints and biometric data. It's operated by Northrup Grumman, which expects to add facial images, palm prints and video to the database.
The National Policing Improvement Agency said it was aware of Server in the Sky but it's "too early to comment on what our active participation might be." A spokeswoman for Northrup said, "It can run independently but if existing systems are connected up to it then the intelligence agencies would have to approve." The Guardian notes:
The plan will make groups anxious to safeguard personal privacy question how much access to UK databases is granted to foreign law enforcement agencies. There will also be concern over security, particularly after embarrassing data losses within the UK, and accuracy: in one case, an arrest for a terror offence by US investigators used what turned out to be misidentified fingerprint matches.