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FBI Biometric Database Plans Explained, Criticized

December 23, 2007

To the consternation of some privacy advocates, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is set to award a 10-year, $1 billioncontract to build a biometric database of people's facila characteristics.

"Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives," reports Washington Post staff writer Ellen Nakashima. "And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists.

Nakashima adds that to help boster this database, he FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.

"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line,"quotes the Post article of Thomas Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, these efforts draw anything but compliments from Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society," he told the Post.

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