Big Brother Getting Bigger Part 1: USA

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.

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US Patriot ActEek, 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 ReportYou 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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22 comments
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  • This is such a difficult issue ...

    ... because the benefits to these technologies could be great, and they could truly lead to very effective law enforcement, and potentially to a more civilized, less crime-ridden society. But they can also be misused horribly by people with dark intentions.

    With human nature remaining unchanged for all these thousands of years, I think no government can be pure enough to have this kind of power at its disposal and only use it for good. However, the world is changing to the kind of place that might be ungovernable without these kind of technologies.
    RationalGuy
    • Agreed, and...

      it's also the concept of you give them an inch and they take a mile.

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
      • I wouldn't be as worried ...

        ... if we didn't see the system of checks and balances in the USA degrade into the partisan power struggle that we've had for decades.
        RationalGuy
        • Agreed again (NT)

          NT
          nmcfeters
    • but too prone to abuse

      "Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher."
      -Thomas Paine

      As much as I wish it weren't so, my cynicism makes me think people succumb to their dark intentions more often than not. That includes the government, and I'm no drown-it-in-the-bathtub, small government guy. It is just all too common to find that not only have one's worst fears been realized, they've been surpassed. Were we worried about the Patriot Act? Yes, and despite all the abuses committed in its name, we still didn't worry enough, and were shocked at the NSA program.
      (he said, adding another layer of foil to his hat)
      vivaeltigre@...
  • RE: Response

    "Terrorists have attacked the U.S.! Quick, put on these chains!"

    v.
    viztor
  • RE: Big Brother Getting Bigger Part 1: USA

    Mr. McFeters,

    You wrote "I'm not sure I'm as worried about the police using it against me (since I'm not a criminal)..."

    According to whose definition? Yours or the police? The Government?

    You apparently have watched Minority Report. Are you really sure that didn't get you classified in some database as an anarchist?
    RichardR_z
    • Possibly, but...

      I don't wear the tin foil hat. I try to keep things in perspective.

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
  • RE: Big Brother Getting Bigger Part 1: USA

    Questions float through my mind. Did 9/11 and the Patriot Act mark the start of the erosion of privacy, or is it just part of a continuum -- more overt, now -- that's been going on for a long time? Are you now, or have you ever been a believer in this statement: "A government that's big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away"? (Clearly the remarks of an anarchist.) To all those of the leftist, socialist persuasion, still think small and limited government is a bad idea, i.e., the Great Welfare State and the Great Police State might be intertwined? And how do you fight and enemy who uses your openness and trust as tools to destroy you, as was demonstrated on 9/11/01?
    MadSciGuy
    • Continuum

      They were tapping phones without warrants in February of 2001. 9/11 has nothing to do with it, it was just a convenient excuse.
      laura.b
      • Continuum, but it has everything to do with it

        It certainly wasn't the start of the erosion of our rights, but it was a major blow.

        -Nate
        nmcfeters
        • Agreed to a point

          It really only sped things up because now they have an excuse. It certainly didn't start it, and it will never end until someone realizes that.
          laura.b
    • In response

      You said:
      "A government that's big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it all away"? (Clearly the remarks of an anarchist.)

      I don't buy that as an anarchist statement. Certainly it is logical. Our government currently seems to believe that it exists to provision and ration our freedom as it so chooses, as opposed to how it was originally designed, to protect those freedoms we hold so dear. I'm certainly no anarchist. At the end of the day, I still believe we have the best government in the world.

      You also said:
      "And how do you fight and enemy who uses your openness and trust as tools to destroy you, as was demonstrated on 9/11/01?"

      They didn't use our openness and trust and they did not destroy us. The used our arrogance and stupidity. They didn't destroy us, and I don't believe they ever will. But we might destroy ourselves, and then, what's the difference to the terrorists?

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
  • Big Brother Getting Bigger Part 1

    What was the title of that Gene Hackman movie of a few years ago???

    Oh yes, it is called:


    [b]Enemy of the State[/b]


    on imdb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0120660/
    fatman65535
  • RE: Big Brother Getting Bigger Part 1: USA

    How terrible, what if the government used DNA to free somebody in jail who has wrongly been imprisoned for 14 years.

    Wouldn???t it be better if we continued using nine digit numbers to identify people, instead of something much more difficult to forge, like a persons retina. I also like hysteria, lets all complain loudly about genetic research into medical cures, because Hollywood made a movie about scientist growing dinosaurs.
    mattie02601@...
    • You're missing the point

      Do we really need retinal scans to replace Social Security Numbers? Will they ever replace them anyways? Probably not.

      I never said there isn't advantages to the technology, but you should never just turn the blind eye.

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
  • spelling nitpick - "proven"

    The correct spelling is "proven". I realize that this is a minor detail. Hackers, spammers, and fanatics don't worry about proper spelling. Serious journalists will pay for copy editors.

    Now, regarding your message about civil liberties: I wholeheartedly agree! Keep writing. Keep fighting for our rights. Ignore the idiots who might criticize insignificant details. The whole point of writing is to communicate, and you're doing a good job of that.
    gnichola@...
    • Yeah, bout that

      Personally I don't really care too much about the spelling. Most of the time I'm pretty close to accurate and it's never so bad you can't understand what I'm saying, but thanks for the tip.

      We'll keep pushing the envelope for our civil liberties, because there's probably nothing more important to journalism then maintaining our civil liberties.

      -Nate
      nmcfeters
  • RE: Big Brother Getting Bigger Part 1: USA

    perception & double deception ; like the one where the
    CN supposedly went in on the congress systems . {<>})
    -
    Not CN but most likely BB.
    303er
  • As Benjamin Franklin said...

    "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security"

    Although I realize how little anyone cares about what people like him had to say anyway... it's not like he ever wrote anything useful, right?
    s_southern