FBI Planning Massive Biometric Database

By Laura Spadanuta, Assistant Editor

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is planning a massive biometric database that it hopes with enable better identification of criminals and terrorists, according to reports by CNN.  It is expected to announce a $1 billion, 10-year contract award to help create the database.

The database is expected combine everything from fingerprints and palm prints to eye scans, tattoos, and facial shapes.

Thomas Bush, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, said the major emphasis will still be on fingerprints.  However, he added that "Whatever the biometric that comes down the road, we need to be able to plug that in and play."  The FBI is already collecting information on scars, tattoos, and palm prints.

Privacy experts are already expressing concern over such a large database with so many personal, physical characteristics. Barry Steinhardt, of the American Civil LIberties Union's Technology and Liberty Project, said:

"It's the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated."

It should be noted that the FBI keeps fingerprint records on not only criminals but also many other individuals, such as those who have undergone criminal background checks for employment in certain positions.

Steinhardt brings up the problems with innocent people being named to no-fly lists at airports as an example of the problems inherent in a database like the one planned. "People who don't think mistakes are going to be made I don't think fly enough," said Steinhardt, adding, ""This had started out being a program to track or identify we're talking about large swaths of the population -- workers, volunteers in youth programs. Eventually, it's going to be everybody."





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