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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.

UPDATE:
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.

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