FBI's next-gen identification system stirs Big Brother fears
Agency says using Next Generation Identification would make the world a safer place, but privacy and civil liberties groups say the risk for misuse is too great
He notes that when there is a catastrophic attack, like 9/11, "our society screams that we need to be better protected. However, when the government comes up with a surveillance mechanism for doing that, "that mechanism has the potential for misuse, the dialog seems to focus only on the Big Brother aspects, and we lose sight of the good results that could occur."
The ACLU argues that "good results" are not guaranteed, and that they are an inadequate trade-off for the potential loss of civil liberties.
"Research demonstrates that video surveillance has no statistically significant effect on crime rates," the group said. "Several studies on video surveillance have been conducted in the UK, where surveillance cameras are pervasive ... [and] show that video surveillance has no impact on crime whatsoever. If it did, then there would be little crime in London, a city estimated to have about 500,000 cameras."
But it does introduce other problems, the ACLU argues. "Camera surveillance systems also inevitably raise issues of racial profiling and voyeurism," it said. "Everyone has heard of the camera operators who zoom in upon women's breasts or police officers who use infrared video surveillance systems to watch a couple engaged in romantic activity."
The EFF's Jennifer Lynch wrote that FBI and Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Board documents suggest that the agency,"wants to be able to search and identify people in photos of crowds and in pictures posted on social media sites -- even if the people in those photos haven't been arrested for or even suspected of a crime."
She also expressed concern over the FBI's plan to combine civil and criminal biometrics records, noting that civil prints collected for employment verification, for background checks, for federal jobs, and even to become a lawyer in California have not been automatically searched every time criminal prints are checked against the database. "That will all change once FBI implements its unique identity system," Lynch said.
In testimony at a U.S. Senate hearing in July, Lynch said facial recognition technology raises both First and Fourth Amendment concerns, since it, "allows for covert, remote and mass capture and identification of images -- and the photos that may end up in a database include not just a person's face but also how she is dressed and possibly whom she is with."
Privacy advocates have also expressed concern that if biometric databases are hacked, people will be at much more risk than if their personal information like bank account or credit card numbers and passwords had been exposed, since biometrics cannot be changed like a password.