US federal agencies, including the FBI and Pentagon, have collaborated with facial recognition technology experts in an effort to enhance their surveillance capabilities using footage from street cameras and drones with the “scaling to support millions of subjects.”
Details of the partnership were revealed in thousands of documents released as part of an open records lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the FBI, the Washington Post reported.
The documents show that the program was underwritten by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), part of the US intelligence community, with the aim of “dramatically improving” the country’s facial recognition tools in 2019.
The FBI has stated that it is “committed to responsible use of facial recognition technology ensuring it appropriately respects individuals’ privacy and civil liberties”.
The ACLU has previously criticized the FBI’s program, warning that it has “the potential to enable undetectable, persistent, and suspicionless surveillance on an unprecedented scale”.
Following the revelations, Democratic Senator Ed Markey introduced legislation on Tuesday aimed at banning the government from using facial recognition technology and other biometric tools, Nextgov reported.
The FBI and Pentagon’s research into facial recognition technology is likely to increase concern about state surveillance in the US, with critics warning that it could lead to widespread tracking of individuals’ movements and associations in ways that threaten fundamental constitutional rights.