The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Justice Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in an effort to compel the agencies to hand over information about their use of facial recognition technology.
The information was first requested in a Freedom of Information Act filing submitted in January of this year. The request sought “policies, contracts, and other records” pertaining to the government agencies’ biometric tracking technologies, according to the ACLU’s newly launched complaint with the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. “To date, none of the Defendants has released any record responsive to the Request,” the complaint said.
The complaint asks the court to order the defendants to produce the requested records and to cover the ACLU’s legal expenses in seeking this action.
In making its case, the ACLU notes in its filing that the FBI has operated a Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (“FACE”) unit since at least 2015, and that this unit provides investigative biometric services to FBI field offices and operational divisions; and it notes that the FBI also operates a Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System enabling biometric matching against a database of 30 million photos, and that it’s currently seeking to acquire additional biometric identification technologies.
The ACLU argues that the release of records pertaining to such programs is in the public interest as the government’s use of biometric surveillance technologies intensifies.
“These technologies have the potential to enable undetectable, persistent, and suspicionless surveillance on an unprecedented scale,” the ACLU says in its filing. “Such surveillance would permit the government to pervasively track people’s movements and associations in ways that threaten core constitutional values.”
Responding to inquiries from The Washington Post, the FBI and DEA said they do not comment on pending litigation, while the DOJ declined to comment.
November 1, 2019 – by Alex Perala