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Privacy rights group opposing FBI’s biometric database wins court ruling

A privacy rights group concerned about the implications of the FBI’s nationwide biometric database has won a lawsuit against the FBI for the legal costs that led to the disclosure of hundreds of pages detailing the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) database, which includes biometrics such as iris scans, palm prints, and facial recognition.

According to a NJ Daily report, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan released an opinion this week in favor of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). EPIC filed a lawsuit last year over a Freedom of Information Act request for a government report that showed FBI’s facial-recognition technology had a one-out-of-five failure rate. They contended that the FBI was trying to keep this information from the public.

The NGI project had digitally converted the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) division’s 30 million records and 83 million fingerprint cards by August, and the database became fully operational in September. The NGI is estimated to process 55,000 photos a day, and it’s expected to digitize 52 million facial images by 2015.

EPIC and others who are critical of the FBI’s database say it’s invasive, and wrongly tracks and collects information on people who are not suspected of any crime. FBI Director James Comey has stated that the database would only be used to track criminals, not ordinary citizens, but the program has yet to complete a Privacy Impact Assessment.

In the wake of revelations around the NSA’s unprecedented collection of personal information brought forth by Edward Snowden, it’s vitally important that the public trust authorities and their use of personal information so that it’s directed at public safety and that it does not impinge on a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Learn more about the FBI’s NGI database in this report.

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