FBI Wants Its Database of Fingerprints, Photographs to Be Private

magnifying-glass-1607208_1280The FBI is trying to protect its database of fingerprints and photographs from a federal law that gives Americans the right to know if they are in the system. Advocates for privacy and civil rights are pushing to make sure these massive federal databases are in check before they are used inaccurately or misused in criminal investigations. The Privacy Act ensures that Americans maintain the right to know the records the government holds about them, but the FBI is resistant to releasing this information; they say it could compromise investigations if a suspect becomes aware of their status.

FBI agents stress the distinction that they are using the databases only to cross-check mugshots, not to track down suspects or detect faces of protesters at public rallies. Their database, which is called Next Generation Identification, stores millions of fingerprints and facial photos and gives the FBI the capability to quickly and efficiently search through the data- the accuracy for fingerprinting matches is over 99%. Rights advocates warn that this system may be erroneous and exclude certain people from applying to jobs, and they worry that immigrants will be singled out by the system. FBI officials defend their system by saying that they have two facial recognition experts for any potential leads before they take any action with investigations, in hopes to prevent unfair singling out of minorities.