FBI Plans to Have 52 Million Photos in Facial Recognition Database by 2015

I have highlighted the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and it great work on this website on many occasions. The organization has been at the forefront of many privacy and civil liberties related issues, including the increasing use of drones by the U.S. government domestically, unconstitutional NSA spying, as well as a host of other issues.

The latest article from them that caught my attention was published a couple of days ago, and shines light on the disturbing push by the FBI to create an extensive facial recognition database, which will include criminal and non-criminal photos alike. The information received by the EFF via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, demonstrates that the feds may have a mugshot database with up to 52 million photos by 2015.

The program is called Next Generation Identification (NGI), and the aspect of it that bothers the EFF most is the fact that non-criminal and criminal photos will be combined in the same database. So someone who has no criminal record can suddenly be flagged as a suspect just because an algorithm says so. What’s worst, research shows that the potential for false positive identification increases as the dataset increases.

To see if your state is participating, take a look at this map courtesy of the EFF.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 10.52.50 AM

More from the EFF:

New documents released by the FBI show that the Bureau is well on its way toward its goal of a fully operational face recognition database by this summer.

EFF received these records in response to our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for information on Next Generation Identification (NGI)—the FBI’s massive biometric database that may hold records on as much as one third of the U.S. population. The facial recognition component of this database poses real threats to privacy for all Americans.

NGI builds on the FBI’s legacy fingerprint database—which already contains well over 100 million individual records—and has been designed to include multiple forms of biometric data, including palm prints and iris scans in addition to fingerprints and face recognition data. NGI combines all these forms of data in each individual’s file, linking them to personal and biographic data like name, home address, ID number, immigration status, age, race, etc. This immense database is shared with other federal agencies and with the approximately 18,000 tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States.

The records we received show that the face recognition component of NGI may include as many as 52 million face images by 2015.
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Department of Homeland Security Moves to Install National License Plate Tracking System

*I have just been informed of some really great news. The DHS has canceled the plan due to outrage. This is what we can achieve if we are informed and keep the pressure on. I expect them to be back at it in the future, so stay vigilant. Article on the cancelation can be found here. I have left my original post intact below.

Earlier today, I highlighted a program planned by the FCC named the Critical Information Needs study, which will embed “government researchers” into media organizations in order to make sure they are doing their job properly. This insane anti-free press measure is extraordinarily disturbing and now we find out that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has plans to outsource the creation of a gigantic, comprehensive nationwide license plate database to a private corporation.

The status quo is now overtly doubling down on surveillance in the wake of the Snowden revelations rather than reigning them in. Game is on folks. Things are getting very serious.

From the Washington Post:

The Department of Homeland Security wants a private company to provide a national license-plate tracking system that would give the agency access to vast amounts of information from commercial and law enforcement tag readers, according to a government proposal that does not specify what privacy safeguards would be put in place.

The national license-plate recognition database, which would draw data from readers that scan the tags of every vehicle crossing their paths, would help catch fugitive illegal immigrants, according to a DHS solicitation. But the database could easily contain more than 1 billion records and could be shared with other law enforcement agencies, raising concerns that the movements of ordinary citizens who are under no criminal suspicion could be scrutinized.

It’s for the children! How can you object to saving the children!

“It is important to note that this database would be run by a commercial enterprise, and the data would be collected and stored by the commercial enterprise, not the government,” she said.

Yeah, because that makes me feel so much better…

But civil liberties groups are not assuaged. “Ultimately, you’re creating a national database of location information,” said Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “When all that data is compiled and aggregated, you can track somebody as they’re going through their life.”

The agency said the length of time the data is retained would be up to the winning vendor.Vigilant Solutions, for instance, one of the leading providers of tag-reader data, keeps its records indefinitely.

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The Day We Fight Back – Big Internet Protest Against the NSA is Planned for Tomorrow

Tomorrow, a large coalition of privacy and civil liberties concerned organizations and companies will launch a grassroots campaign to stop illegal NSA spying called “The Day We Fight Back.” The organizers of this event are a diverse bunch, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Demand Progress, Mozilla, Campaign for Liberty, the ACLU and many, many more.

The protest is encouraging websites to put up a banner that will highlight ways to call and email your Congressional representatives in order to push them to support the USA Freedom Act, the only NSA focused legislation currently moving through Congress that actually has teeth to it in order to defend the 4th Amendment.

Liberty Blitzkrieg will be participating in this protest.

The organization describes its action as follows:

DEAR USERS OF THE INTERNET,

In January 2012 we defeated the SOPA and PIPA censorship legislation with the largest Internet protest in history. Today we face another critical threat, one that again undermines the Internet and the notion that any of us live in a genuinely free society: mass surveillance.

In celebration of the win against SOPA and PIPA two years ago, and in memory of one of its leaders, Aaron Swartz, we are planning a day of protest against mass surveillance, to take place this February 11th.

Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action. Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.

WHAT WE’LL DO ON FEBRUARY 11th:

If you’re in the US: Thousands of websites will host banners urging people to call/email Congress. We’ll ask legislators to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, support the USA Freedom Act, and enact protections for non-Americans.

If you’re not in the US: Visitors will be asked to urge appropriate targets to institute privacy protections.

The Hill covered the protest. Here are some excerpts:

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Supreme Court Decision – Electronic Devices Granted Some Protection at Border Crossings

Border crossings are a great place for government bureaucrats to harass the citizenry. Over the past several years, most of us have heard horror stories in this regard. I highlighted several stories of border crossing concerns last year, with the two most interesting being:

Why I Will Never, Ever, Go Back to the United States by Niels Gerson Lohman

and

If Flying into the UK, Your Phone Can Be Seized and Data Downloaded Without Suspicion

One of the greatest fears of activists, journalists and average citizens alike, is that some border patrol agent can confiscate your electronics on a whim and then use sophisticated software to break your passwords and look through all your personal files and data. Fortunately, the Supreme Court just let stand the ruling by an appellate court, which ruled that a deep forensics analysis of one’s electronics can only occur if there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. That’s at least a start in the right direction.

From Wired:

Without issuing a ruling, the justices let stand an appeals court’s decision that U.S. border agents may indeed undertake a search of a traveler’s gadgets content on a whim, just like they could with a suitcase or a vehicle. That is known as the ”border search exception” of United States law, where travelers can be searched without a warrant as they enter the country. The Obama administration has aggressively used this power to search travelers’ laptops, sometimes copying the hard drive before returning the computer.

However, in a rare win for digital privacy, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling last year concluded that a deeper forensic analysis by border officials using software to decrypt password-protected files or to locate deleted files now requires “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity — an outcome the justices refused to tinker with today.

That means, in essence, the authorities must have some facts, rather than a hunch, that illegal activity is afoot to perform a forensic analysis on electronics seized along the border of the western United States.

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Official at the NSA States: “I Have Some Reforms for the First Amendment”

Here’s an article by Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a contributing editor to Foreign Policy. He recently spent a day at the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. As you might expect, some interesting tidbits came from the mouths of some of these control-freak statists. One truly unenlightened official seemed to hold the press in particular disregard and stated: “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.”  I’m quite certain he has some reforms in mind for the 4th Amendment as well…

Once again I ask, if they hold the U.S. Constitution and civil rights in such disdain; what exactly are they protecting us from?

From Foreign Policy:

For an organization that is so efficient at amassing data intended to be kept secret, the National Security Agency seemed surprisingly clumsy in accepting data that was volunteered to them. I’d emailed the bits and pieces of my personal data necessary to be cleared for access to the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade a week before the scheduled visit, with zero response. As it turns out, an NSA server has crashed, they told me, creating havoc with some email accounts. This sort of hiccup humanizes the agency, though it also raises questions about their vulnerability.

The NSA’s biggest strategic communications problem, however, is that they’ve been so walled off from the American body politic that they have no idea when they’re saying things that sound tone-deaf. Like expats returning from a long overseas tour, NSA staffers don’t quite comprehend how much perceptions of the agency have changed. The NSA stresses in its mission statement and corporate culture that it “protects privacy rights.” Indeed, there were faded banners proclaiming that goal in our briefing room. Of course, NSAers see this as protecting Americans from foreign cyber-intrusions. In a post-Snowden era, however, it’s impossible to read that statement without suppressing a laugh.

The NSA’s attitude toward the press is, well, disturbing. There were repeated complaints about the ways in which recent reportage of the NSA was warped or lacking context. To be fair, this kind of griping is a staple of officials across the entire federal government. Some of the NSA folks went further, however. One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I honestly do not know whether that last statement was a joke or not. Either way, it’s not funny.

If that’s what they are willing to say when a professor is around, just imagine what they say behind closed doors…

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Video of the Day: “Operation Everyone Talk Like a Terrorist”

The folks at Funny or Die have come up with an ingenuous solution to render the NSA’s spy program useless. Operation: Everyone Talk Like a Terrorist All the Time. It makes a lot of sense, especially since the government already clearly considers everyone with the ability to think critically a potential “domestic terrorist.” Short video and really funny. Enjoy!

Decoding the NSA: How the Agency Manipulates Language to Mislead the Public

When we as a species use language to communicate and engage with one another, we have a certain understanding that certain words mean certain things. That is the entire purpose of language, effective communication between human beings that can be easily understood. As a result, we should be able to assume that when government bureaucrats utilize words that are commonplace within society, that these words represent specific commonly understood meanings. That would be a huge mistake.

Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU have compiled an excellent list of some commonplace words used by the NSA to mislead us into thinking they aren’t doing the bad things that they are actually doing. Words such as “surveillance,” “collect,” and “relevant.” From Slate:

James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has been harshly criticized for having misled Congress earlier this year about the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. The criticism is entirely justified. An equally insidious threat to the integrity of our national debate, however, comes not from officials’ outright lies but from the language they use to tell the truth. When it comes to discussing government surveillance, U.S. intelligence officials have been using a vocabulary of misdirection—a language that allows them to say one thing while meaning quite another.

Surveillance. Every time we pick up the phone, the NSA makes a note of whom we spoke to, when we spoke to him, and for how long—and it’s been doing this for seven years. After the call-tracking program was exposed, few people thought twice about attaching the label “surveillance” to it. Government officials, though, have rejected the term, pointing out that this particular program doesn’t involve the NSA actually listening to phone calls—just keeping track of them. Their crabbed definition of “surveillance” allows them to claim that the NSA isn’t engaged in surveillance even when it quite plainly is.

Collect. If an intelligence official says that the NSA isn’t “collecting” a certain kind of information, what has he actually said? Not very much, it turns out. One of the NSA’s foundational documents states that “collection” occurs not when the government acquires information but when the government “selects” or “tasks” that information for “subsequent processing.” Thus it becomes possible for the government to acquire great reams of information while denying that it is “collecting” anything at all.

That definition of “collect” is completely and totally insane.

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Montana Passes Sweeping Anti-Government Spying Bill

What is so interesting about Montana’s House Bill 603, which passed overwhelmingly the state Senate by a 96-4 margin, is that it was passed in April, or several months before Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. Talk about some foresight. Hopefully, we will see many more such bills sweep across the nation, as “change” will have to be done at the local level. The central government in D.C. is hopelessly corrupt and I don’t see that changing. We must just decentralize away from the District of Criminals on our own. From the Atlantic Wire:

Privacy advocates, behold the Montana legislature and House Bill 603, a measure that requires the government to obtain a probable cause warrant before spying on you through your cell phone or laptop. HB 603 was signed into law this past spring, effectively making Montana the first state to have an anti-spy law long before anyone heard of Edward Snowden. To be clear, HB 603 passed the state Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 96-4 in April and was signed into law on May 6.

At the time, the law might have seemed extraneous, or even paranoid. But knowing what we know now, the law seems prophetic. The law is pretty straightforward—the government can’t spy on Montanans through their electronic devices unless they obtain a warrant:

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Extremely Powerful Video: Happy 4th of July from a Police State Checkpoint

The following is a very powerful video taped yesterday when a simple citizen had the nerve to assert his constitutional rights in front of a power hungry storm trooper in the state of Tennessee.  Minute five is particularly telling when the officer seems to lament the fact that “he’s perfectly innocent, he knows his rights, he knows what the Constitution says.”  Also notice that when the citizen claims his 4th Amendment rights to not have his vehicle searched, the officer creates a scene where his canine supposedly “smells drugs in the car” as an excuse to search it.  Of course, no drugs were found and the deputy was demonstrating that he can do whatever he wants to a mere slave in a vehicle traversing the “free” highways of America.  This is a must watch.  USA! USA!

Chinese Dissident Ai Weiwei: “The U.S. is Behaving Like China”

Ai Weiwei is a Chinese artist and political dissident.  Although he collaborated on the construction of Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics, his criticism of the government later led to his arrest without charges and imprisonment for several months.  I believe there are two main takeaways from the following article he wrote for The Guardian. First, he knows what it is like to live in an authoritarian regime with very little freedom or civil liberties. Thus it would be wise to take his warning to heart. Second, he illustrates a key point I have been trying to make for years. All citizens of the world must refuse to allow their respective governments to drag us into a war started by various oligarchs located in distinct geographic locations.  99.9% of the population must come together and understand that oligarchs within the U.S. and oligarchs within China are united against us all.  We must never forget this.  These guys don’t fight wars.  Rather, they rape, steal and pillage and then send you to do their dirty work.  Don’t fall for it.  From The Guardian:

I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.

In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.

When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That’s dangerous for human development.

In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power.

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