America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to exempt its Next Generation Identification (NGI) biometric database system from national privacy legislation.
First launched back in 2013, the NGI system is used for biometric identification by law enforcement authorities as well as government bodies conducting background checks on applicants for certain kinds of jobs. Last autumn it won an Excellence.Gov Award from the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council, and it has proven useful in investigations such as the case of a convicted fugitive who was captured after 19 years on the run.
At the same time, the system’s broad reach has raised concerns about privacy and civil rights issues, particularly as government agents’ use of sophisticated biometric identification technologies has increased in recent years. As such, some organizations are seeking more time to weigh in on the issue of Privacy Act exemption, which would protect the NGI system against civilian requests for personal documentation and amendments of information thought to be inaccurate. When it first proposed its exemption request in early May, the FBI set a deadline of June 6th for public comment, and groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation are now asking the FBI for at least 30 extra days to respond.
It’s a complicated matter, and one that helps to highlight the complexities of government collection and administration of biometric data—an issue that recently came to the fore in the UK when it was revealed that certain regulations led to the deletion of hundreds of biometric records connected to suspected terrorists. With such incidents in mind, it’s clear that there are considerable stakes involved in this issue, and many stakeholders.
June 1, 2016 – by Alex Perala