In an article published by the Verge,it was revealed the FBI has been quietly collecting hundreds of thousands of iris scans as part an experimental program referred to as the “FBI Iris Pilot.” Working together with local police departments, U.S. Border Patrol, and the Pentagon, the FBI has discreetly amassed 434,000 iris scans.
The surveillance technology, used primarily by airports and private security companies, was pitched in 2013 as a way to help police departments catch criminals in a safer and more efficient manner. At that point, the FBI already had 30,000 scans and was looking to coordinate with local and national agencies to develop a searchable database of scans taken by police departments across the nation. The iris scan, which can be taken from a distance and requires no physical contact, was to be taken upon arrest and submitted whether charges were pressed or not.
California was the first to get on board with the program, according to a memo signed by representatives from the FBI and California Department of Justice. Departments in Texas and Missouri also participate, but records show the bulk of scans in the database come from California.
All agencies are required by law to conduct Privacy Impact Assessments on programs collecting personal information, but no such assessment was made on the pilot program prior to its operation. According to the Verge, an FBI representative claimed they were exempt in this case “because the pilot was conducted with limited participation for a limited period of time.”
The potential ramifications of a surveillance program that can collect an average of 189 iris scans per day—from one department alone—could be severe and warrant heavy scrutiny before being implemented nationwide.Just last month, the FBI was found to have been collecting hundreds of millions of facial scans in a separate program much like the iris pilot. A report from the Government Accountability Office showed not only that the program was being operated with an out-of-date privacy assessment, but also that tens of millions of facial scans came from “driver’s license photos that were not linked to any crime.”
The most alarming discovery is that both programs operate under the FBI’s Next Generation database, a project the Bureau is working to keep outside the reach of the Privacy Act. This has (rightfully) drawn the attention of critics who believe the FBI should not be permitted to operate in complete darkness.
It’s absurd for anyone to deny the fact the United States government is using every tool at its disposal to obtain personal information from its citizens, violating the most basic of human rights. When the government is permitted to know everything about its citizens while it is simultaneously allowed to protect its own privacy, there’s a very serious problem.
Via: Activist Post