The Washington Post is reporting a new FBI initiative that further erodes whatever privacy everyone has. It is going to award a $1 billion contract for a 10 year project to create the worlds largest Biometric database. Yes folks, finger and palm prints, iris scans, pictures, scars, pretty much every possible piece of biometric data.

About the only good news to come out of this announcement is that it is the FBI doing this, and based on their prior track record the likely hood of this project being a success is minimal at best. They may be great at catching criminals but computer systems have never been their forte. Over the years they have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on developing ambitious systems that have never actually worked!

One of the most disturbing aspects of this initiative is the use of covert means to obtain the information. Apparently the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), which is some 30 miles rom the two football field sized underground data center of the FBI’s biometric facility in Clarksburg, researchers are working on capturing images of people’s irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards.

“Covert iris- and face-image capture is several years away, but it is of great interest to government agencies”

No kidding! Privacy advocates are obviously concerned about this kind of development. An Iris scan is as good as a fingerprint, this technology now means that while out shopping, or paying your utility bill, you may well be scanned without your knowledge. Pretty soon a trip to the local supermarket will require wearing a hoodie, dark glasses, and latex gloves!

Simon Barrett

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