FBI curates database of 411m photos for facial recognition system

The FBI has built a database of 411m images to power its facial recognition algorithms which may not have sufficient protections in place, according to an official report from the Government Accountability Office.

Spread across numerous state and federal databases the trove includes 173m driver’s license photos which are regularly scanned in trawls for criminal suspects identified on CCTV, but questions surrounding the accuracy of the data have led some to fret that suspects could be falsely accused by the system.

Since becoming operational in April 2015 the system has run more than 36,000 scans at the behest of FBI agents, returning up to 50 hits at a time which are then subject to additional investigation for final identification.

Alvaro Bedoya, director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, said: “The FBI has, in effect, created a nationwide face recognition system that includes not just criminals, but tens of millions of law-abiding Americans who were never notified of this enrolment.”

Whilst the FBI has proved efficient at drawing together photographs from numerous agencies it has proven less effective at verifying their accuracy.

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