The Face Recognition Debacle

Technology has advanced our lives in a big way, positively and negatively, of this there is no doubt. But have we allowed these advancements to be taken too far?

With government and social media becoming more and more intrusive, our quest for safety post 9/11 has eased us into a false sense of security. Our knee-jerk reactions to calamities have turned us from strong, resilient Americans who come up with (good) solutions, to cowards who rush to misinterpret, or worse, rescind our constitutional rights. Recently while posting on facebook, I noticed an invitation to set up facial recognition.


Considering I have the camera lens on my iMac and Macpook covered with a Post-it, I am not going to do that.  My social media avatar is not even a picture of me, but rest assured the government already has my photo.  In fact, the FBI boasts that it has a database full of images.  The majority of these images are of people who have no criminal record and have committed no crimes according to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GOA).  The GOA report states that not only does the FBI have 30 million mug shots in the Bureau’s Facial Analysis, Comparison and Evaluation Services Unit, but they also have access to driver’s license, visa, passport and even the Department of Defense’s biometric database.

These states provide the FBI full access to their resident’s data including facial recognition:  North Dakota, Utah, Michigan and South Carolina.

It doesn’t end there either. Currently the following states allow the FBI access to its driver’s license database:  Vermont, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Delaware.

Next you have the states currently negotiating with the FBI for access to their residents’ data: Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, DC, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Alaska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana.

Interestingly enough (considering many are Democrat-leaning), these states give the FBI no access to its citizens database: Washington(state), Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, California, Hawaii, Missouri, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio, Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire and New York.

The GAO put out a report, titled “FACE RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY: FBI Should Better Ensure Privacy and Accuracy,” the report was released almost two years after the FBI stated they went from pilot program to fully operational.  The GAO’s report summarized the program as follows:

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) operates the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS)—a face recognition service that allows law enforcement agencies to search a database of over 30 million photos to support criminal investigations. NGI-IPS users include the FBI and selected state and local law enforcement agencies, which can submit search requests to help identify an unknown person using, for example, a photo from a surveillance camera. When a state or local agency submits such a photo, NGI-IPS uses an automated process to return a list of 2 to 50 possible candidate photos from the database, depending on the user’s specification. As of December 2015, the FBI has agreements with seven states to search NGI-IPS and is working with more states to grant access. In addition to the NGI-IPS, the FBI has an internal unit called Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) Services that provides face recognition capabilities, among other things, to support active FBI investigations. FACE Services not only has access to NGI-IPS, but can search or request to search databases owned by the Departments of State and Defense and 16 states, which use their own face recognition systems. Biometric analysts manually review photos before returning at most the top 1 or 2 photos as investigative leads to FBI agents.

The report, which was provided to Congress in May of 2016, and released publicly in late June of 2016, faulted the FBI for being lax about privacy and the accuracy of the photos in its database. According to the GAO:

The FBI has entered into agreements to search and access external databases—including millions of U.S. citizens’ drivers’ license and passport photos—but until FBI officials can assure themselves that the data they receive from external partners are reasonably accurate and reliable, it is unclear whether such agreements are beneficial to the FBI and do not unnecessarily include photos of innocent people as investigative leads.

Although the report was only able to provide only a handful of examples of the FBI database actually solving a crime, they stated the database was used in investigations involving fraud, robberies, violent crime, and other such felonies. The GAO report noted a complaint filed by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 2012 about this billion-dollar program and stated:

Specifically, according to a July 2012 Electronic Frontier Foundation hearing statement, false positives can alter the traditional presumption of innocence in criminal cases by placing more of a burden on the defendant to show he is not who the system identifies him to be. The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that this is true even if a face recognition system such as NGI-IPS provides several matches instead of one, because each of the potentially innocent individuals identified could be brought in for questioning. In addition, if false positives are returned at a higher than acceptable rate, law enforcement users may waste time and resources pursuing unnecessary investigative leads. By conducting tests to verify that NGI-IPS is sufficiently accurate for all allowable candidate list sizes—including ensuring that the detection and false positive rates are identified—the FBI would have reasonable assurance that NGI-IPS provides investigative leads that help enhance, rather than hinder or overly burden, criminal investigation work. Even more, the FBI would help ensure that it is sufficiently protecting the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens enrolled in the database.

Jennifer Lynch, an attorney for the EFF, blogged that “many of the 411.9 million face images to which FBI has access—like driver’s license and passport and visa photos—were never collected for criminal or national security purposes.”

Also noted was that facial recognition is a no crime-fighting solution. In fact, the facial recognition software has been found to be biased against blacks and provided absolutely no assistance when the manhunt for the Boston bombers was underway.

Of course the FBI, in its response to the GAO report, stated the bureau “has established practices that protect privacy and civil liberties beyond the requirements of the law. “The FBI fully recognizes that the automated nature of face recognition technology and the sheer number of photos now available for searching raise important privacy and civil liberties considerations. For that reason, the FBI has made privacy and civil liberties integral to every decision from the inception regarding its use of face recognition technology,” the bureau added.

Given the news lately regarding government spying on Americans, including the current President and the scandal involving Facebook  and other outlets using algorithms, our phone numbers, our photos, our texts, etc., as a means to not only invade our privacy, but to sell our information to third-parties, and even to attacking our livelihoods (such as with Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to name a few).  I have no confidence, no confidence at all that the FBI, Facebook, our state and local governments will use any of these technologies to “protect” us.

You can sit back and allow this with the excuse that it is for our own safety.  There are some pros to these types of programs.  For the most part, they are not for the greater good and they can and WILL be used to target conservatives, independents, republicans, and anyone not on board with the big government agenda.  Of this you can be sure.

Benjamin Franklin once said: Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.  These words could not be truer today.

About Candie Suarez

I have been writing stories and articles for years. I enjoy putting information and research links in most of my articles, except for those written from the heart. Books have been a part of my life since I was a child. I remember as a kid reading the encyclopedia and playing with a dictionary. Word smithing is definitely my thing.


  1. Don’t fool yourself, the government has EVERY person’s photo on FR that has EVER passed in front of a camera. The military has all of the pics and will share via DHS

  2. Why does anything that comes from the left is from cowards and anything from the right good people? This does nothing to heal or help. The objective should be to teach and learn not humble and humiliate.

  3. Oh also it was the Presidents campaign that used stolen data from facebook. Which was financed by Republican mega donors Ribert and Rebecca Mercer.

    • Yeah I understand that Trump also sunk the titanic, killed Kennedy; and caused hurricanes.

    • ActuallyLarry the Looney Left, the information was purchased. Not that any enterprising left wing bureaucrat would do something like that. Not that I’m trying to imply that Hitlery Clinton would pay someone to make up a dossier about the soon to be president. Say looney Larry, do you really approve of Hitlery Clinton selling access to US foreign policy while she was Secretary of State? You know what I’m talking about, the saudi’s Donate $25 mil to the Clinton foundation and in exchange get “ special” treatment from the state department. Like selling the Saudi’s F16’s at half price.

  4. Didn’t I read on here at one time that the conservative mom was in favour of giving the government the right to control what women could do with their bodies? However, in this case you’re concerned that the government may have collected your photo. Seems odd that you’re more worried about your photo.

    I agree that facial recognition data in the wrong hands is a concern that needs addressing. With regard to the Facebook option I would think it only applies to devices that have facial recognition capabilities since there is more to it than simply comparing a photo. It would be no different than using your fingerprint to access apps however I haven’t actually tested it.

    • First of all you NEVER heard such a thing in any article I have written. Although abortion is not an obligation of the government (who is funded by THE TAX PAYER) to pay. As to your analysis of the facebook issue, the fact that you have not tested it, renders you unqualified to give an opinion pro/con.

    • Actually Tom, I am having trouble here with your statement. I don’t recall the government ever wanting to control what women did with their bodies, except in the case of prostitution, which they determine to be a public health hazard due to disease. Are you in favor of prostitution Tom? Maybe your confusing the Abortion issue as being about a woman’s right to choose when it’s actually about a child’s right to live. Tom, are you advocating that the government should allow a woman to kill anyone she deems undesirable or inconvenient?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Check Also

Sheriff Remains Defiant After New Mexico Governor Sues To Enforce Coronavirus Lockdown

New Mexico has sued a local county sheriff’s office to force officers to enforce heavy-handed ...

Worldwide Confirmed Coronavirus Infections Reach over 17 Million

The number of confirmed worldwide coronavirus infections topped 17 million on Thursday morning. “Data from ...

New Voter Registrations Plummeting, Posing Threat to Biden

Joe Biden may be facing a new-voter problem, which the coronavirus pandemic isn’t helping. Data ...

What Parents Can Learn From Child Care Centers That Stayed Open During Lockdowns

When Arizona schools shut down in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Tatiana ...

Cotton Launches Bill Banning Federal Funds for ‘1619 Project’ Curricula

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) introduced a bill Thursday that would ban federal funds for teaching ...