back to article Privacy activists sue FBI for access to facial recognition records

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a suit against the Feds to force the bureau to reveal information about its planned biometrics database. The EFF said that it had submitted three Freedom of Information Act requests to the FBI last year to try to get info on the database and the agency's use of facial recognition, …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a perfect world this would be possible .. Unnecessary, but possible

    They should ask the NSA to tell them what the FBI is doing.

  2. James 51

    Will it be defeated by something as simple as putting a stone in your shoe and cotton wadding in your cheeks?

    I haven't seen any studies that indicate this stuff is ready to be used on such a large scale. Even tiny error rates are going to cause a massive workload sorting out the false positives and negatives. The thing it will be most useful for is going after citizens who embrass people in power.

    1. edge_e

      I'm amused that you think they'll work hard to weed out the false positives. What will actually happen is you'll be found guilty because the database says you are. All the hard work will then be done by your lawyers, assuming you can afford them, trying to prove the database is wrong.

      1. Ole Juul

        false positives

        I suspect they would like as many positives as possible, false or not, because it justifies their project.

  3. i like crisps
    Big Brother

    It's the great leveler

    What separates people/citizens from criminals?, our unique biological markers,

    fingerprints and DNA, all of which are stripped from criminals when they are caught

    and prosecuted for their crimes. Programmes like this mean that the only thing separating

    the general law abiding population from criminals will be the very high brick walls that

    the convicts are behind.

    I don't know about you lot but i would like to think that i'm one step up from a rapist!

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: It's the great leveler

      Just out of curiosity, why is your comment formatted like dialogue from Captain Kirk, as portrayed by William Shatner? I tried reading it like a poem and it didn't help either.

      1. Irongut Silver badge

        Re: It's the great leveler

        Read it like Shatner though and it totally works. Maybe it IS Shatner!

      2. Graham Marsden

        @Don Jefe - Re: It's the great leveler

        It's a glitch with El Reg's comments system that I've seen in the past where, for some reason, it adds line-breaks instead of doing word wrapping.

  4. Don Jefe

    Privacy Impact Assessment

    This lawsuit will only result in an updated Privacy Impact Assessment that includes the new technology. An updated 'suck it, we're doing it anyway, for your own good, to protect your Freedom'.

  5. btrower

    How well will it work?

    Interesting problem. We can recognize people and often even distinguish identical twins from one another. However, we only get to that point with a few hundred people. With 7 billion people, is facial recognition going to be enough to essentially 'prove' it is you in that picture?

    As for trusting the FBI with that database -- not a chance. We need to dismantle and replace entities like the FBI. They have over-reached to the point they cannot operate properly and they are demonstrably incompetent at their legitimate mission.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: How well will it work?

      I imagine that there's an important distinction between identifying people and finding people.

      I seem to recollect a test in which a police facial recognition expert was matched against software. The task was to find target individuals in film of a crowded street, and I believe the software did as well as, or better than, the expert.

      This sort of capability is obviously quite valuable for tasks like screening air travellers, and the software solution has the enormous advantage that it can be replicated in a way that isn't possible with human experts, and that it doesn't suffer from the fatigue and distraction that I imagine is a problem for them. Humans can then take on the task of eliminating false positives.

      Not that I'm endorsing this - I think it sounds quite alarming - though I can imagine situations in which it would be valuable.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Odd, I thought the FBI had shut down their facial recog work as (after 50+ yrs) it did not work.

    Too high a rate of false positives.

    so what's changed?

    1. Mystic Megabyte

      Re: Odd, I thought the FBI had shut down their facial recog work as (after 50+ yrs) it did not work.

      Bigger prisons?

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Odd, I thought the FBI had shut down their facial recog work as (after 50+ yrs) it did not work.

      Access to Facebook and LinkedIn, courtesy of the NSA, and most State DMV's now do digital drivers license images and share them so there is a much larger body of images to compare with.

  7. Gil Grissum
    Thumb Down


    Good luck with that lawsuit. I seriously doubt that you will get far with it. The FBI had been using CARNIVORE since 2005 to sniff web traffic. Now PRISM takes care of that and cell phone sniffing as well. This facial recognition system will get a pass as it's going to be touted as "essential to the preservation of national security and prevention of terrorism".

  8. Miek
    Big Brother

    "The law enforcement agency is busily beefing up its Next Generation Identification (NGI) database, which will include biometric information like iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready pics and voice data, adding to its existing database of fingerprints for law enforcement agencies across the US." -- Go back to bed America, you are free to do as we tell you*.

    * Bill Hicks

  9. i like crisps
    Big Brother

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

    Comments about my post factitious, puzzled as to why my syntax questioned?

    Serious topic undermined, must find way to communicate potential disaster

    to Democratic civilization. Hope fading fast...

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

      Now you sound like Rorschach.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Privacy Activists?

    Why not say the EFF directly on the headline? I would have guessed most everyone in IT know who they are.

  11. BornToWin


    The Electronic Farce Fraudsters might as well piss up a rope.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: Funny

      and what did you do today to try and protect your freedoms?

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