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EPIC files FOIA lawsuit against FBI for details on biometric database

Categories Biometrics News

Public interest research group, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the FBI to obtain documents about the agency’s Next Generation Identification database.

The database in question contains biometric identifiers, and is intended to provide an incremental replacement of the FBI’s current Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) technical capabilities. According to the FBI’s website, the contract to create this system was awarded to Lockheed Martin Transportation and Security Solutions. 

According to EPIC’s complaint, the FBI failed to disclose documents in reports to two Freedom of Information Act requests from last year related to the Next Generation Identification program, including contracts with commercial entities and technical specifications.

The complaint also says that by the time the database is complete, it will be the largest in the world; it will contain photographic images of “millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects”; and that “The NGI databases will be available to private entities, unrelated to a law enforcement agency.”

At this point, it is unclear why the FBI has not disclosed documents to EPIC, and how soon that may happen.

A recent Biometric Research Note suggests that the U.S. Government is a major driver for biometrics and spends at least US$450 million per annum on pure scientific biometric research.

The firm expects that amount to grow as federal law enforcement agencies increase their efforts to integrate more biometric technologies under the FBI’s Next Generation Identification program.

“Expect the agency to spend millions of more dollars to accomplish the task,” Rawlson King, Biometrics Research Group lead researcher says in the report.

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