September 10, 2012, 1:01 PM — Thanks to the FBI, the United States government will soon have a nationwide system in place capable of monitoring and identifying persons of interest virtually anywhere. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) system is designed to aid the FBI in tracking down and capturing criminals.
Fingerprints have been the primary unique identifier for law enforcement agencies of all levels for a century. Even with billions of samples on record, no two fingerprints have ever been found to be alike.
Fingerprints are just one unique identifier, though, and much of the accumulated fingerprint data is not merged and easily accessible. NGI will include voice recognition, iris and retina scan data, facial recognition, DNA analysis, and more in an automated system designed to help law enforcement identify and capture suspects more efficiently and effectively.
NGI is designed to integrate with surveillance camera systems across the country. An algorithm will be used to automatically scan surveillance video and compare faces to criminal mugshots to alert authorities when wanted suspects are identified. The FBI database will also have the ability to identify unique scars or tattoos on potential suspects.
Many computers and consumer electronic devices rely on biometric features to identify and authenticate users. Some desktop and laptop computers include fingerprint scanners that can be used in place of a password, or in conjunction with a password, for stronger, two-factor authentication. There is some speculation that Apple may include fingerprint security for its iOS devices, and Android mobile devices have an option to use facial recognition to unlock access.
For privacy advocates, though, theres a huge difference between using your own biometric features as a security measure to protect your computers and mobile devices, and Big Brother rolling out a nationwide system to automate the capability to spy on the entire population. Privacy advocates are concerned about the possible abuse of the system, or the prospect that unauthorized users might be able to hack the system and gain access to sensitive data.