database, EPIC, FBI

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.

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