Thursday, December 1, 2016

Say Cheese: Shocking Percentage Of Americans In Facial Recognition Database

Say Cheese: Shocking Percentage Of Americans In Facial Recognition Database
By Kurtis Bright

Smile, You’re On Candid Camera: Cops Have Half Of All Americans On Facial Recognition Database

The intrusion of the surveillance state is almost constantly in the news these days, but usually only in a general sense. We are vaguely aware of the ways our rights are being violated through 007-like activities that have become alarmingly routine, but rarely does the subject flare up into the open. 

And that's just the way the authorities like it. Activities like local, state and FBI use of Stingray devices to scoop up all cell phone activity in a particular area, or the Snowden revelations about the NSA doing the same greedy hoover routine only on a much grander scale with our email and phone calls are better left unacknowledged, as far as those doing the spying are concerned.

So it is only rarely that we read or hear about the ways the rubber meets the road in terms of the surveillance state; that is to say, knowing exactly what rights and whose rights are being violated and in what specific ways is something you have to seek out.

But a new study is stepping into the breach to lay out in stark terms just how ubiquitous the surveillance state apparatus really is, at least by one measure: it turns out that if you are an adult U.S. citizen, it pretty much comes down to a coin flip as to whether you are currently in the facial recognition database shared by law enforcement nationwide.

Perhaps most worrying--even more so than the fact that this police database holds information on over 117 million citizens of the “land of the free,” the vast majority of whom are law-abiding and have never committed a crime--is that this is the first time such a comprehensive look at all use of facial recognition apparatus nationwide has been approached.

Looking at data from over 100 police departments over the course of a year, the study's authors extrapolated the 117 million figure they reached based on the number of photos currently being held by the database. 

A large number of such photos come from mugshots, of course. However another consideration is that obviously the number would never be so high if there weren’t heavy interagency cooperation and sharing.

One particularly disturbing bit of information on how law enforcement uses these photos is that at least 26 and possibly as many as 30 states allow agencies to run or request searches against their databases of driver’s licenses and ID photos.

In addition, several large-city police departments are researching how they might implement real-time recognition on live street cameras, meaning anyone walking virtually anywhere in one of these cities--think about how ubiquitous cameras are in the city--could be scanned by police against the database.

We’re talking real-life dystopia here, folks. Enjoy all your "freedom," just  as long as you are able to pretend you have any left.

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