The federal government’s Next Generation Identification System — a biometric database that relies largely on facial-recognition technology — is now fully operational, the FBI announced Monday.
“This effort is a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler,” the FBI said in a statement.
The latest advance in the technology gives users the ability to receive “ongoing status notifications” about individuals’ criminal histories, the FBI said. That means if, for instance, a teacher commits an offense, law enforcement can be immediately informed — and then pass that information on to administrators.
It’s to monitor criminal histories of those “in positions of trust,” the FBI said.
The NGIS’s Interstate Photo System gives law enforcement agencies — from police to probation and parole officers — the ability to access facial technology imagery contained in criminal databases.
But privacy and civil rights groups are alarmed.
“One of the risks here, without assessing the privacy considerations, is the prospect of mission creep with the use of biometric identifies,” Jeramie Scott, national security counsel with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the National Journal. “It’s been almost two years since the FBI said they were going to do an updated privacy assessment and nothing has occurred.”
FBI director James Comey told Capitol Hill lawmakers earlier this year that agents weren’t trying to create a national database of Orwellian proportions; rather, they’re only trying to “find bad guys by matching pictures to mugshots,” National Journal reported.