The FBI has been running a secret iris scanning program, according to a new report from The Verge.
Officially designated a pilot program, it has largely escaped substantial oversight and public knowledge. It began in 2013 as a close collaboration between the federal law enforcement agency and the California Department of Justice, envisioned as a component of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification program, which largely relies on fingerprints for biometric identification.
Renewed at the end of each of its one-year terms, the program has seen the collection of 434,000 biometric iris records, largely collected via police in San Bernadino County, with contributions from Los Angeles and Riverside counties as well; The Verge reports that law enforcement agencies in Missouri and Texas are also able to contribute iris scans to the program. Iris scans were submitted to the FBI, which added them to the fingerprint and facial biometric databases on file in its NGI database. The iris program has never been subjected to an official privacy impact review.
The news arrives as the FBI seeks to exempt its NGI program from certain provision in the national Privacy Act, and soon after a Government Accountability Office report revealed that the FBI has also developed another secret biometric database using facial data from driver licenses and other citizen identity documents. California is not thought to be a state participant in that program.
July 13, 2016 – by Alex Perala