The NSA uses a variety of data in order to fish for the images, including e-mails, text messages, social media, video conferences, and other communications. These programs have been labeled by former CIA analyst Edward Snowden, who was the first to expose the NSA privacy violations, to be grossly unregulated and unsupervised.
The agency steals millions of images per day from unsuspecting citizens, including roughly 55,000 facial recognition quality images. The NSA now considers facial images, fingerprints, and other identifiers to be just as important as written and oral communications were throughout the past. The data that is collected includes the person’s everyday regular online activities, gets compiled and compiled to form biographic and biometric information for the NSA, their “pattern of life” according to Edward Snowden.
As more state and local law enforcement agencies are coming to widely apply facial recognition software, including the use of driver’s license and Facebook information, we need to ask ourselves about the implications and application.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is also looking to establish the next generation identification program, which will combine automated fingerprint identification with facial imagery and other biometric data. Much of the data collected from this system will include iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos,voice data, and more. It also makes that data available to other agencies at the state and federal levels. The FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) database is expected to contain 52,000,000 photos by 2015.
The Department of Homeland Security is also pressing forward with millions in funding toward projects that are designed to match suspects against faces in a crowd, one in particular is the Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS). The BOSS technology consists of two cameras that are capable of taking stereoscopic images of a face and a back-end remote matching system. The stereoscopic images are two images of the same object, these are taken at slightly different angles which create an illusion of three-dimensional depth from two-dimensional images.
The BOSS system research originally began as an effort to help the military detect potential suicide bombers and other terrorists overseas at outdoor polling places in Afghanistan and Iraq. They are now being used on American soil (and likely abroad), to sift through the public looking for the any “terrorist” threat.