August 23, 2012
Earlier this month, we reported details uncovered by researcher Justin Ferguson on Trapwire, a sophisticated software that represents a significant leap in the ability of the government to monitor citizens via public and private CCTV networks.
Stratfor emails unearthed by Wikileaks reveal the government’s effort to integrate Trapwire into local police departments.
“The iWatch monitoring system adopted by the Los Angeles Police Department (pdf) works in conjunction with TrapWire, as does the District of Columbia and the ‘See Something, Say Something’ program conducted by law enforcement in New York City, which had 500 surveillance cameras linked to the system in 2010. Private properties including Las Vegas, Nevada casinos have subscribed to the system. The State of Texas reportedly spent half a million dollars with an additional annual licensing fee of $150,000 to employ TrapWire, and the Pentagon and other military facilities have allegedly signed on as well.into cop shops around the country,” RT reported on August 11.
The effort to move the technology into police departments, however, is more ambitious.
According to Government Computer News, the FBI “is expanding the pilot project of its facial recognition software and will be offering a free-of-charge client software version later this summer to law enforcement agencies.”
Piloted in Michigan, the system provides the ability to search a repository of nearly 13 million criminal mug shot photos taken at time of booking and is scheduled to be fully operational in the summer of 2014.
“[Memorandums of understanding] have also been executed with Hawaii and Maryland, and South Carolina, Ohio and New Mexico are engaged in the MOU review process for facial recognition pilot participation. Kansas, Arizona, Tennessee, Nebraska and Missouri are also interested in facial recognition pilot participation,” according to Jerome Pender, the deputy assistant director the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division.
Currently, “there is no law regulating law enforcement use of facial recognition technology,” senator Al Franken said in a statement.
“Facial recognition creates acute privacy concerns that fingerprints do not,” Franken said. “Once someone has your faceprint, they can get your name, they can find your social networking account and they can find and track you in the street, in the stores you visit, the government buildings you enter, and the photos your friends post online,” he said. “I fear that the FBI pilot could be abused to not only identify protesters at political events and rallies, but to target them for selective jailing and prosecution, stifling their First Amendment rights. Curiously enough, a lot of the presentations on this technology by the Department of Justice show it being used on people attending political events or other public gatherings. I also fear that without further protections, facial recognition technology could be used on unsuspecting civilians innocent of any crime — invading their privacy and exposing them to potential false identifications.”