Skip to main content

FBI Unveils $1 Billion Facial Recognition System

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.

Contact Us for News Tips, Corrections and Feedback

  • dextermat
    FBI should write a book: How to waste 1 billion of tax payers money.... even if technology is cool!
    Reply
  • xurwin
    why not pour it all on the R&D department and make some cool batman or james bond kind of items. that would be pretty sweet and helpful of course. they could make a Batman to save almost everybody. 1billion is alot of cash though
    Reply
  • TeraMedia
    Great. Now we'll have to watch a sequel with Shia LeBoeuf running all over the countryside, unwittingly helping execute a plot to kill people. Except this time, it won't be the Air Force's system but rather the FBI's.

    Now if they connect this technology up to peoples' camera phones, that could be truly scary. Who needs a tinfoil hat when you can wear a prosthetic nose.
    Reply
  • icepick314
    and it's defeated by $5 novelty plastic mustache glasses...
    Reply
  • outlw6669
    92% accurate, 8% rate of false identification.
    Yeup, no chance that this will cause any issues....
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    outlw666992% accurate, 8% rate of false identification.Yeup, no chance that this will cause any issues....That is still 92% more effective than an un-fingerprinted terrorist that we have a photo of
    Reply
  • outlw6669
    back_by_demandThat is still 92% more effective than an un-fingerprinted terrorist that we have a photo ofUntil they shave/grow a beard or put on glasses, makeup, etc.....
    Reply
  • jellico
    Hmmm.... so, I'm thinking Scamble Suits ala Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly.
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    So if this is rolled out in airports, does that mean the FBI will have a database of anyone using air travel? Exactly how many people do you think will be placed into a crime database without permission or knowledge in just 12 months? A bit of searching says about 48% of Americans travel by air each year, so about 150 million
    ...
    Yeah, that database is going to get real busy, especially when you add all the foreign travellers coming in every year for holidays / business / blowing up skyscrapers etc
    ...
    Funny they announced it on 9/11, just to remind us they are doing something useful
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    outlw6669Until they shave/grow a beard or put on glasses, makeup, etc.....I'm sure if all it took to fool a billion dollar facial recognition software was a liberal application of lipstick or growing a moustache they wouldn't have even announced it
    ...
    Tell you what, grow a moustache then rob a post office, then shave it off and see if you can fool the system, I dare ya
    Reply