The FBI will begin a service that provides facial recognition capabilities to local police agencies for identifying persons of interest via photos by early 2012 as a part of their larger Next-Generation Identification system, which incorporates iris, voice and facial data in addition to the fingerprint data the FBI already has, according to a Nextgov article.
The need the FBI is hoping to fill is the frequent case wherein police investigating a case will have a photo of a suspect that they know is the person they are looking for but have nothing more than the photo to go on.
With the new facial recognition software, police agencies would be able to find matching mug shots of a submitted photo with the related biographical information of each individual without having the name as opposed to needing at least the name of the suspected offender to find the data needed to complete the investigation.
The early stage of the program that is expected to begin in January 2012 will see Michigan, Washington, Florida and North Carolina police agencies testing the equipment. Should the pilot program be successful, FBI officials are expecting a full roll-out across the country in 2014.
While the purpose of this is to enable local police agencies to better find and apprehend suspects in cases, the news has immigration rights groups concerned that due to the sharing of fingerprint data between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI, that the potential for abuse of the new facial recognition systems is possible.
While the purpose of the sharing of the fingerprint data is to keep dangerous offenders such as murderers and rapists out of the U.S., rights groups have charged that DHS has frequently extradited those that have minor infractions sometimes even dismissed ones on their record.
Still others have raised concerns regarding the existence of non-offenders facial information being in the FBI database for matching, but FBI officials maintain that the new capabilities will not change the way they collect or store data, simply how local agencies are able to use it to their advantage.
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