FBI Unveils $1 Billion Facial Recognition System
Fingerprinting is so yesterday.
The FBI is reportedly about to implement a nationwide face recognition system that is designed to upgrade the Bureau's fingerprint database and help fight crime. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) program comes at a cost of $1 billion and is scheduled to be operational in 2014.
The basic feature set is to immediately scan mugshots for matches in a database, but the system is also capable of taking pictures of people in a crowd and using them against a database, or using publicly available pictures for scans. In effect, the system is evolutionary of the fingerprint data base held by the FBI today. It would be reasonable to assume that this system will be widely deployed and used even in rather unsuspecting environments of the DOJ's Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which today relies solely on fingerprints of immigrants.
According to an article published by New Scientists, the algorithm used by the software was able to pick the right person in a mugshot comparison 92 percent of the time. The image pool of the FBI held about 1.6 million images at the time of this evaluation, which happened in 2010.
It is also reasonable to assume that there will be some form of protest against this database and imaging system if the idea expands to public surveillance cameras and eventually targets everyone. As much as someone may argue that the system improves our safety, an omnipresent surveillance is creepy and very reminiscent of George Orwell's 1984.