Nowhere To Hide: FBI To Roll-Out $1 Billion Facial Recognition System


The FBI has revealed its plans to launch a $1 billion Minority Report-like facial recognition system across the United States so unprecedented in scope that it will be able to be used to identify criminals with greater than 90 percent accuracy.

Promising to be an upheaval of the national fingerprint database, it’s all part of the billion dollar Next Generation Identification (NGI) programme that is set to add mugshots of citizens to the database, as well as biometric data such as DNA information, iris scans and voice recognition data to expand the tool-set available to authorities.

According to New Scientist, a ‘handful’ of states have already started to upload their photos, presumably of known criminals, to aid the pilot programme. The facial recognition system works in one of two ways. Law enforcement agencies can either take an image of a person of interest and compare that against the national repository of images held by the FBI to produce a list of potential 'hits', fairly simple. Or, and this is the most fascinating application, footage from security cameras can potentially be fed, in real-time, to the software whereby a mark can be picked out in a crowd and followed through the streets. Remind you of anything? Perhaps you remember the scene in Minority Report where surveillance cameras alert the authorities of Tom Cruise's whereabouts after catching a glimpse of his face?

Don't expect for a moment the roll-out of such a powerful system will happen without a hitch, however. The FBI surely has a duty to US citizens to explain how such power will be implemented without being abused, nor one that will be seen to encroach on our most basic human rights. So far, the bureau has been pilot-testing the system since February of this year, and pins down 2014 as a possible time-frame to roll out the programme nationwide.

Richard Birkett