Friday, May 24th, 2019

FBI Doesn’t Want Privacy Laws To Apply To Its Biometric Database

Published on May 14, 2016 by   ·   No Comments

The FBI has been building a massive biometric database for the last eight years. The Next Generation Identification System (NGIS) starts with millions of photos of criminals (and non-criminals) and builds from there. Palm prints, fingerprints, iris scans, tattoos and biographies are all part of the mix.

Despite having promised to deliver a Privacy Impact Assessment of the database back in 2012, the FBI’s system went livetowards the end of 2014 without one. That’s a big problem, considering the database’s blend of guilty/innocent Americans, along with its troublesome error rate. The FBI obviously hopes the false positive rate will continue to decline as tech capabilitiesimprove, but any qualms about bogus hits have been placed on the back burner while the agency dumps every piece of data it can find into the database.

The FBI has shown little motivation to address Americans’ privacy concerns by providing an updated Impact Assessment (the one it does have dates back to the program’s inception in 2008), but has wasted no time in alerting legislators about its own privacy concerns.

On Thursday, the Justice Department agency plans to propose the database be exempt from several provisions of the Privacy Act — legislation that requires federal agencies to share information about the records they collect with the individual subject of those records, allowing them to verify and correct them if needed.

The DOJ’s comments reflect the FBI’s desire to keep its newest tracking toy as secret as possible. It asks for a number of exceptions and justifies those with the same excuses it uses to withhold information from both courts and FOIA requesters.

First, there’s the always-popular “but the bad guys will win” excuse

[M]aking available to a record subject the accounting of disclosures from records concerning him/her would specifically reveal investigative interest by the FBI or agencies that are recipients of the disclosures. Revealing this information could compromise ongoing, authorized law enforcement and national security efforts and may permit the record subject with the opportunity to evade or impede the investigation.

[...]

Providing access could compromise sensitive law enforcement information, disclose information which would constitute an unwarranted invasion of another’s personal privacy; reveal a sensitive investigative technique; could provide information that would allow a subject to avoid detection or apprehension; or constitute a potential danger to the health or safety of law enforcement personnel, confidential sources, and witnesses.This is the FBI’s request for a legislator-approved, pre-emptive blanket Glomar, which will allow the FBI to continue to amass biometric records while drastically decreasing any citizen’s attempt to see how much data the agency has amassed on them.

Beyond that, the FBI wants to be allowed to keep or destroy records as it sees fit. Again, this will help limit successful database inclusion challenges from concerned citizens. But the DOJ portrays complying with Privacy Act provisions as completely unfeasible.

Read More HERE
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