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.
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.