FBI’s Rap Back program will use biometrics to alert government agencies of felony arrests of their employees

D/FW Airport to be among first users of FBI criminal history tracking effort (Dallas Morning News)

D/FW Airport and Boston’s Logan International Airport were the two selected by the Transportation Security Administration to pilot the FBI’s Rap Back program. The program allows the TSA to continuously track employees for felony-level arrests, rather than relying on individuals to self-report their crimes.

FBI face rec leads to fugitive pedophile

FBI using facial recognition despite privacy concerns (Valley News – Fargo, ND)

For 19 years, Lynn Cozart eluded authorities after being convicted of sexually assaulting his three children.

He failed to show up for his sentencing hearing and seemed to drop off the map. So in a desperate bid to track down the Pennsylvania native, an FBI agent submitted Cozart’s mug shot to the agency’s newly created Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which among other things uses facial recognition software to identify suspects.

The story continues at the link. With input from privacy advocates and law enforcement officials.

For some things, 90 minutes is “rapid”

The FBI Is Very Excited About This Machine That Can Scan Your DNA in 90 Minutes (Mother Jones)

The RapidHIT represents a major technological leap—testing a DNA sample in a forensics lab normally takes at least two days. This has government agencies very excited. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department funded the initial research for “rapid DNA” technology, and after just a year on the market, the $250,000 RapidHIT is already being used in a few states, as well as China, Russia, Australia, and countries in Africa and Europe.

One hugely important thing DNA analysis can do that other biometrics can’t is to establish familial relationships. This 2011 piece about the RapidHIT technology mentions that the government found in one audit that 80% of relationship claims among asylum-seekers were fraudulent.

That, by itself, guarantees a certain level of demand for DNA analysis. The other use cases mentioned in the Mother Jones article linked at top are interesting, too.

EPIC success

Privacy group wins $20,000 in lawsuit against FBI biometric ID program (Red Alert Politics)

Privacy advocates won a lawsuit demanding information on the FBI’s biometric identification program, “Next Generation Identification” (NGI). A federal judge has now awarded the privacy group $20,000 in legal fees and ruled that the public has an interest in obtaining information on the program, the National Journal reported.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is the group that won the suit.

FBI switches criminal ID information systems

FBI: Full Operational Capability of the Next Generation Identification System (FBI Press Release)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division announced today the achievement of full operational capability of the Next Generation Identification (NGI) System. The FBI’s NGI System was developed to expand the Bureau’s biometric identification capabilities, ultimately replacing the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) in addition to adding new services and capabilities.

The IPS [Interstate Photo System] facial recognition service will provide the nation’s law enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities.

The transition appears not to have been completely smooth, but it also looks like normal service is being restored to those who rely upon the FBI’s ID infrastrusture.

National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) reports problem-free weekend after a week of issues (Guns.com)

The system started experiencing problems Sept. 6, when the FBI implemented the Next Generation Identification system — a $1.2 billion biometric system that recognizes facial features, scans irises, and reads palm and fingerprints to identify criminals — to replace the single sourced Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

FBI captures long-time fugitive using facial recognition

Neil Stammer Captured Poster (Screenshot)

FBI and facial recognition catch a fugitive of 14 years (FBI)

Special Agent Russ Wilson had just been assigned the job of fugitive coordinator in our Albuquerque Division—the person responsible for helping to catch the region’s bank robbers, murderers, sex offenders, and other criminals who had fled rather than face the charges against them.

“In addition to the current fugitives, I had a stack of old cases,” Wilson said, “and Stammer’s stood out.” Working with our Office of Public Affairs, a new wanted poster for Stammer was posted on FBI.gov in hopes of generating tips.

At about the same time, a special agent with the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS)—a branch of the U.S. Department of State whose mission includes protecting U.S. Embassies and maintaining the integrity of U.S. visa and passport travel documents—was testing new facial recognition software designed to uncover passport fraud. On a whim, the agent decided to use the software on FBI wanted posters. When he came upon Stammer’s poster online, a curious thing happened: Stammer’s face matched a person whose passport photo carried a different name.

A gimlet eye on the FBI’s face recognition database

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s FOIA request/lawsuit for FBI records about its facial recognition efforts has borne fruit, as we thought it might.

FBI Plans to Have 52 Million Photos in its NGI Face Recognition Database by Next Year (EFF)

The records we received show that the face recognition component of NGI may include as many as 52 million face images by 2015. By 2012, NGI already contained 13.6 million images representing between 7 and 8 million individuals, and by the middle of 2013, the size of the database increased to 16 million images. The new records reveal that the database will be capable of processing 55,000 direct photo enrollments daily and of conducting tens of thousands of searches every day.

Read the whole thing. There’s a lot there.

Two of the most interesting revelations come under the headings: NGI Will Include Non-Criminal as well as Criminal Photos, and, Many States Are Already Participating in NGI.

“On schedule, within budget and within scope.”

Next Generation Identification: A closer look at the FBI’s billion-dollar biometric program (Biometric Update)

Representing a $1.2 billion investment by the U.S. federal government, the FBI’s massive Next Generation Identification (NGI) program is a ten-year lifecycle project that hinges on biometric identification technologies and has seen privacy advocates butt heads with law enforcement since its inception.

Split into six “increments,” Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract in 2008 to design, build and implement the program on behalf of the FBI, which ultimately aims to enhance the abilities of the agency’s aging IAFIS from the mid-nineties.

More at the link.

Voice Recognition Capabilities At The FBI

Hirotaka Nakasone, Senior Scientist, FBI Voice Recognition Program, examines the use and effectiveness of current speaker authentication technologies at the FBI. In this IDGA exclusive, Nakasone also highlights the various challenges that are unique to voice recognition, and discusses what plans are in place for capturing voice recordings in line with the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI project).

Definitely worth checking out.

EFF sues for FBI response to FOIA request

EFF Sues FBI For Access to Facial-Recognition Records (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

As the FBI is rushing to build a “bigger, faster and better” biometrics database, it’s also dragging its feet in releasing information related to the program’s impact on the American public. In response, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI to produce records to satisfy three outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests that EFF submitted one year ago to shine light on the program and its face-recognition components.

Since early 2011, EFF has been closely following the FBI’s work to build out its Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometrics database, which would replace and expand upon the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). The new program will include multiple biometric identifiers, such as iris scans, palm prints, face-recognition-ready photos, and voice data, and that information will be shared with other agencies at the local, state, federal and international levels. The face recognition component is set to launch in 2014.

The text of the actual suit is also available at the EFF site [pdf] here.

Adam Vrankulj, covering the topic at Biometric Update, recalls that “The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a FOIA lawsuit against the FBI in April to obtain documents related to the NGI.”

That’s a good catch, and it offers the opportunity to revisit the EPIC suit, assessed at the time here, in: EPIC sues FBI over biometrics FOIA request, where we noted EPIC’s tendency to overshoot the mark where technology is concerned.

The EFF requests are, to summarize, for:
1. Records related to the FBI’s proposed relationship with states to “build out its facial recognition database”
2. The FBI’s plans to combine civil and criminal data
3. Records related to the reliability of facial recognition capabilities

When compared to those of EPIC, the EFF FOIA activities certainly reflect a more moderate approach that would appear to have a higher likelihood of bearing fruit. The EFF seems carefully to avoid asking for information that the FBI can’t provide, and it would appear to be an easier request to comply with than EPIC’s.

The EFF’s FOIA request/lawsuit has borne fruit.
FBI Plans to Have 52 Million Photos in its NGI Face Recognition Database by Next Year (EFF) Read te whole thing.

EPIC sues FBI over biometrics FOIA request

EPIC Sues FBI to Obtain Details of Massive Biometric ID Database (EPIC)
The text of the lawsuit (pdf) is here.

Key bit:

On September 20, 2012, EPIC transmitted, via facsimile, its first FOIA request to the FBI for agency records (“EPIC’s First FOIA Request”).

35. EPIC’s First FOIA Request asked for the following agency records:

a. All contracts between the FBI and Lockheed Martin, IBM, Accenture, BAE Systems Information Technology, Global Science & Technology, Innovative Management & Technology Services, Platinum Solutions, the National Center for State Courts, or other entities concerning the NGI.

36. On September 21, 2012, EPIC transmitted via facsimile another FOIA request to the FBI for agency records (“EPIC’s Second FOIA Request”).

37. EPIC’s Second FOIA Request asked for the following agency records: a. All technical specifications documents and/or statements of work relating to the FBI’s development, implementation, and use of technology related to NGI.

38. In both of its FOIA requests, EPIC asked the FBI to expedite its response to EPIC’s FOIA requests because EPIC is primarily engaged in disseminating information and the requests pertained to a matter about which there was an urgency to inform the public about an actual or alleged federal government activity. EPIC made this request pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(6)(E)(v)(II). EPIC based the request on the need for the public to obtain information about the NGI program. EPIC cited extensive news coverage of the NGI program and the fact that aggregating these voluminous biometric data has profound privacy implications for U.S. persons.

39. In both of its FOIA requests, EPIC also requested “News Media” fee status under the Freedom of Information Act, based on its status as a “representative of the news media.”

40. EPIC further requested waiver of all duplication fees because disclosure of the records requested in EPIC’s FOIA requests will contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations and activities of the Government.

Here’s what EPIC wants:

Requested Relief

A. order Defendant to conduct a reasonable search for all responsive records;
B. order Defendant to promptly disclose to plaintiff responsive agency records;
C. order Defendant to recognize Plaintiff’s “news media” fee status for the purpose of EPIC’s FOIA requests, waive all duplication fees, and disclose all responsive agency records without charge;
D. order Defendant to grant Plaintiff’s request for expedited processing;
E. award Plaintiff its costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in this action pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E) (2010); and
F. grant such other relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

We’ll see where this goes. Some of the requests — the names of the contracted companies, for instance — seem reasonable. Some of the requests — section 37 in particular — may be a little trickier to comply with. To cite just one reason, it’s not unusual for entities that contract with government bodies to share highly confidential information about intellectual property with their customer with the understanding that it will be kept confidential. So, the FBI probably posses information it is unable to disclose that comes under section 37 of the EPIC request.

This FOIA request and lawsuit, however, is a win-win for EPIC. Send a fax. Get access to all sorts of information or gain attention through a lawsuit.

The FBI is probably indifferent.

It’s worth noting, however, that in the past EPIC has overshot the mark where biometrics are concerned. In EPIC Fail we discussed EPIC’s opinion that facial recognition technology should be banned.

FBI, DHS team up to nab border intruders with iris biometrics

FBI and DHS team up to nab border intruders with iris biometrics (NextGov)

The FBI is partnering with the Homeland Security Department to identify border trespassers by exchanging digital eye scans of booked offenders, bureau officials said.

Iris recognition — which matches a digital image of the unique, colored portion of an individual’s eye against archived photos — quickly ensures authorities have fingered the right crook, advocates say. Critics say iris capture invades privacy and wrongfully pulls immigrants into the deportation system.

IAFIS: Biometrics ID some rough customers crossing the New Mexico border

New Mexico border agents arrest 2 convicted murderers; seize pot (Las Curces Sun-News)

On Saturday agents assigned to the Lordsburg station encountered a group of people who illegally entered the United States. Biometric information was submitted into the Integrated Automated Identification System (IAFIS), which revealed that one subject, later identified as 40-year old Inocencio Noveron Sostenes from Mexico, was convicted of murder in 2004, and served several years in prison. The subject will be criminally prosecuted on a prior order of removal and returned back to Mexico after re-instatement.

The following day, agents assigned to the Interstate 10 checkpoint west of Las Cruces encountered a Jamaican national traveling in a rental vehicle to Los Angeles. The subject’s biometric information was submitted into the IAFIS Data Base. It revealed 44-year-old Sirano Thompson had an extensive criminal history to include, but not limited to, a conviction for attempted first degree murder in Florida.

“Rapid” DNA: Not super rapid. Still really cool. More steak than sizzle.

FBI eager to embrace mobile ‘Rapid DNA’ testing (PC Advisor)

It’s been the FBI’s dream for years — to do near-instant DNA analysis using mobile equipment in the field — and now “Rapid DNA” gear is finally here.

Really!? Near instant? Mobile equipment? Are FBI agents are running around with hand held DNA devices that give instant feedback?

Not really.

According to the article, “…[T]he Rapid DNA device can spit out an individual’s DNA data within 90 minutes… measures about 27-by-24-by-16 inches, costs about $245,000.”

Compared to other biometric deployments, this isn’t particularly rapid or mobile.

Though I’ve made some sport with rapid DNA in the past, there are some applications where only DNA analysis will do and the applications that government bodies have in mind for “rapid DNA” don’t exactly lend themselves to breathless reporting or Gattaca* references.

First, the FBI wants faster and cheaper DNA analysis to help clear cold cases where the state possesses DNA evidence by comparing the DNA of arrestees with an evidence database.

We discussed this very point with Mike Kirkpatrick in a recent twitter Biometric Chat.

Q4: Then, if the Big Three of biometrics are Face, Finger/palm print & Iris – Where does DNA fit in?

A4: There’s an ongoing multi-agency effort on rapid DNA, which will put a “quick” DNA capability at the booking stations. We should see this in the market within the next couple of years. It’ll help solve alot of cases. DNA in many ways is the ultimate biometric but still has many privacy issues associated with it as well as the past relative slowness in getting results. It can prove someone innocent as easily as proving someone guilty, which is good as all in criminal justice should be searching for the truth. [ed. formatting edited to de-twitter the Q&A]

Then, there are other government ID applications where only DNA will suffice such as this one, having to do with immigration and whether certain individuals are related by family, described in a very interesting Computerworld article from about a year ago (blog post here).

One pent-up need for a rapid DNA analysis kit is coming for the Department of Homeland Security’s citizenship and emigration services, according to Christopher Miles, biometrics program manager at DHS.

The uncomfortable realization that the government might be wasting a huge amount of time reading fraudulent documents and listening to lies was a lesson learned a few years ago in trying to help refugees in Kenya that wanted to emigrate to the U.S. In that instance, the U.S. government took about 500 DNA samples, did a lab analysis to verify family relationships, and found out 80% were fraudulent, Miles said.

If all you have is a DNA database or if you need to find out if two people are related, DNA is the only biometric modality that can help. In these cases, and compared to what went before it: 90 minutes really is fast; $1,500 per transaction (a guess) really is cheap; and something the size of a microwave oven really is mobile.

*The article’s author, while suspected of the former, is innocent of the latter. As for Gattaca, I enjoyed the film but I can’t believe it was released fifteen years ago: October 24, 1997.

Trickle Down Security

Kind of like GPS.

FBI’s Facial Recognition Program: Better Security Through Biometrics. The FBI’s facial recognition technology is a boon for law enforcement–and perhaps soon for enterprise and consumer security as well. (Information Week)

An important and often overlooked topic broached in the article is whether the more profound applications of biometric ID management technologies will be in commercial processes rather than law enforcement.

Deciding whether or not to incarcerate someone is very different than deciding whether to transfer property from a store owner to a customer. Naturally, different standards of identification and ID certainty will apply. I continue to think that private sector application of biometrics will eventually dwarf deployments in the public sector because in the private sector biometrics simply have to help people confront existing challenges better than the status quo coping mechanism. In the ultimate law enforcement setting, a court of law, they have to clear a standard that becomes less actuarial and more closely approximate of perfection in individual circumstances.

FBI Face Rec in the News

The story is all over the news, but I like this cnet piece best because Charles Cooper plays it straight and gives a concise history of how we got here.

Privacy hawks fret as FBI upgrades biometrics capacities (cnet)

The computer revolution arrived late at the FBI, which was still collecting and matching fingerprints in 1999 in much the same way that it did when the agency first began collecting the images in 1924. But that’s been changing lately and privacy hawks are watching closely.

As the millennium neared, the agency finally traded in its manual system for one in which a database of fingerprints and associated criminal histories could be searched and updated. Now, the next step.

We first posted on this subject here in March, 2011.

This is the post that deals with some privacy and technical aspects of the issue in more detail. I highly recommend it (even if I do say so myself). Ultimately what is permitted in the name of law enforcement is, and should be, a political decision.

You may also be interested in our recent twitter “Biometric Chat” with Michael Kirkpatrick. Mr. Kirkpatrick was the FBI’s Assistant Director in Charge of the Bureau’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division from January 2001 – August 2004. He led the Division through profound IT changes especially relating to the application of biometric technologies to the challenges of law enforcement and the curent initiative under discussion here would have been under his purview.

FBI wants Tattoos for Meaning not ID

FBI asks local police for tattoo databases (Bend Bulletin – OR)

The FBI wants your tattoos — more specifically, the meanings behind their inky black lines and colorful shapes — and it’s asking local law enforcement agencies for help.

This has more to do with investigating organized crime associations than ID, but applying what can be learned from local law enforcement organizations will involve technologies closely related to biometrics.

Biometrics, object recognition and search

News Round-up: Government Biometrics in the US

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. is beginning to use hand held biometric ID scanners for access to the base. (Tinker.af.mil)

NEW YORK State Senator urges biometric ID for Medicaid recipients (Buffalo News)

U.S. SUPREME COURT: Criminal DNA Collection Law Stays In Place (WRTV 6 – Indiana)
Contrary to the author’s assertion, collecting DNA after arrest and before trial isn’t controversial; it is evidence. Evidence can be used to exonerate as well as convict. Now, what happens to the evidence following a not guilty verdict is another matter altogether.