Monday, 10 September 2012 05:46

The FBI's Next Generation Identification System Rasies Serisous Security and Privacy Concerns

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The FBI is getting on the biometric bandwagon as they are moving forward with a program to help them catch bad guys. The problem with the program, as always, is that these same systems that are intended to keep us safe can be abused. The new program dubbed The Next Generation Identification program is a $1 Billion “upgrade” to the national finger print database. The new system adds in a few items that could be very helpful in tracking down and catching the “bad guys”. The new data includes pictures, voice prints, iris scans, DNA and potentially more.

Now much of this information is stuff that the FBI has been collecting for years about major criminals. It is usually the FBI that deals with voice print matching when audio or video tapes have been sent from terrorist groups. The same can be said for facial images and even DNA in some cases. What is unusual about this new system is that it is being rolled out nationwide. The FBI also intends to provide access to this system to state law enforcement in the same way they did with the finger print database and the national crime information systems. Some also feel that this database is already accessible by systems like Trapwire and could become a serious threat to privacy.

To imagine the extreme side of this, think about the movie Minority Report. In this movie there were cameras and sensors that tracked your movements through a city. The authorities knew where you were and what you were doing at any given time because of them. The use of biometrics for tracking and identification has always featured heavily in science fiction books where there is an oppressive police state simply because the systems can be unobtrusive make people likely to become used to their presence.

As it stands the Next Generation Identification System has raised concerns with many privacy advocates. One of these is Senator Al Franken who has suggested that the database could be seriously abused to stifle peoples’ First Amendment Rights to protest. How many will stand up to speak their minds if they know that they  will be cataloged and put into the system for tracking and potential arrest/harassment in the same way that real criminals are? If you think this is far-fetched you might want to see what is already happening with social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. There is strong evidence that people who are involved in the Occupy movement and other protest rallies have had their accounts monitored for information and subpoenas have been issued in several cases to gain information on post times, IP addresses, location and more.

Although the new identification system does have the potential to help find real criminals current trends in the way the government is handling protests, copyright infringement and a few other items do not make us feel that this is the only use that they will put it to. It will just be another piece in the control puzzle that has been building over the last few years. We have already seen the rise of security contractors that are doing the jobs that the US Government either cannot or does not want to be directly tied to. These are services like Torrent Swarm poisoning, torrent swarm tracking, “darknet” tracking, proactive surveillance and internet monitoring. Some of these systems are so bad they seem like something out of a bad science fiction book.

As a final thought on the existence and use of a national biometric identification database, what happens when someone gains access to all of the data that the FBI and other governmental agencies are collecting to “keep us safe”? We have called 2012 the year of the breach, but something tells me that we have not seen anything yet. As we continue to see technology abused and used to control and track groups like Anonymous (we use the term group very loosely here) are sure to go after these systems not only to harass the FBI and other agencies that are running them, but also to show just how dangerous and open to attack they are. It is not going to be pretty…

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