FBI facial recognition technology a threat to liberty?

Some privacy advocates think so. Government's ability to spy on us, track us, and now pick us out of a crowd is growing faster than our ability to assess the threats to our freedom.

You don't have to be a paranoid to ask legitimate questions about where all this is leading:

They're watching you -- or at least will be in a couple of years. That's when the FBI is gearing up for a nationwide launch of a $1 billion project designed to identify people of interest, according to the New Scientist. Dubbed the Next Generation Identification (NGI) program, the high-tech endeavor uses biometric data such as DNA analysis, iris scans and voice identification to track down folks with a criminal history. The FBI also plans to take NGI on the road literally by using public cameras to pick faces from the crowd and cross check them with its national repository of images. Let's just say this facial technology isn't going to be used for lighthearted Japanese vocaloid hijinks or unlocking your electronic device. The use and scope of NGI, which kicked off a pilot program in February, will likely be questioned not just by black helicopter watchers but privacy advocates as well. Facial recognition has certainly been a touchy issue in privacy circles -- something Facebook learned firsthand in Germany. Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is already raising concerns about innocent civilians being mixed up or included in the database. Naturally, the FBI claims that the NGI program is in compliance with the U.S. Privacy Act. On the positive side, at least they didn't name it the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System.

To be sure, it's good to have a few hysterics around when government proposes a program with the potential to violate our rights. But a rational look at the facial recognition tech should include the benefits as well. As with any other program, careful oversight will allay many concerns that arise whenever new technologies have the potential threaten our liberty.

Some privacy advocates think so. Government's ability to spy on us, track us, and now pick us out of a crowd is growing faster than our ability to assess the threats to our freedom.

You don't have to be a paranoid to ask legitimate questions about where all this is leading:

They're watching you -- or at least will be in a couple of years. That's when the FBI is gearing up for a nationwide launch of a $1 billion project designed to identify people of interest, according to the New Scientist. Dubbed the Next Generation Identification (NGI) program, the high-tech endeavor uses biometric data such as DNA analysis, iris scans and voice identification to track down folks with a criminal history. The FBI also plans to take NGI on the road literally by using public cameras to pick faces from the crowd and cross check them with its national repository of images. Let's just say this facial technology isn't going to be used for lighthearted Japanese vocaloid hijinks or unlocking your electronic device. The use and scope of NGI, which kicked off a pilot program in February, will likely be questioned not just by black helicopter watchers but privacy advocates as well. Facial recognition has certainly been a touchy issue in privacy circles -- something Facebook learned firsthand in Germany. Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is already raising concerns about innocent civilians being mixed up or included in the database. Naturally, the FBI claims that the NGI program is in compliance with the U.S. Privacy Act. On the positive side, at least they didn't name it the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System.

To be sure, it's good to have a few hysterics around when government proposes a program with the potential to violate our rights. But a rational look at the facial recognition tech should include the benefits as well. As with any other program, careful oversight will allay many concerns that arise whenever new technologies have the potential threaten our liberty.

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