FBI's $1 Billion Biometric Database Will Help Catch the Bad Guys

Illustration for article titled FBI's $1 Billion Biometric Database Will Help Catch the Bad Guys

The FBI is planning to spend $1 billion on the world's largest biometric database. The database will be used to create a big brother state, in which you will ultimately have little autonomy assist the FBI's efforts in catching the bad guys. Apparently, compilation of digital images, including mug shots, fingerprints and palm patterns have already begun.

The FBI is expected to step-up the initiative in January 2008, when it will award a 10-year contract to a company that will assist with the construction of the database, named the Next Generation Identification system. Further, employers will be able to request information regarding their employees is retained, which will mean the system will have a dual function for forensic and identification purposes. We are thinking it's not such a hot idea; having everyone's info all in one place, with a dual purpose, just seems like a bad idea to us. How do you guys feel bout it? [Reuters]

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There is always a balancing act between ease of law enforcement and rights of the individual. Law enforcement agencies will ALWAYS ask for more power to make their jobs easier, but at what cost to liberty? Is the greatest threat to Western liberal democracy al-Qaeda, or our own governments taking away essential liberties (like Habeas Corpus)?

To me there should be no need to even ask that question (as the answer is self-evident), but our government with the duplicity of the media has played the fear game and created a real-life Goldstein (1984 reference to those of you who haven't read it).

If Benjamin Franklin were alive today he'd be horrified. "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety", he said. After 9/11 the US switched off its collective brain and did just that.

While something as seemingly innocuous as a biometric database may appear to have nothing to do with the erosion of liberties, problem is two-fold. Firstly, they are only as accurate as the human-beings that enter the data. We're told that fingerprinting is fool-proof, but that's a lie. Errors in data entry make 100% accuracy impossible. No meaningful study of the accuracy of fingerprinting has ever been conducted, and yet juries are told that they need not question the evidence. This will be repeated for other biometric evidence and innocent people will go to jail.

Secondly, we may live under a benevolent government today (if you choose to believe that), but what about tomorrow? Have people already forgotten the crimes of Nixon? It is likely that someone much worse will rise to power in the future. How will they abuse the tools we have given them?

A biometric database will probably evolve to include DNA (something that's already happening in the UK thanks to Tony Blair, who no doubt thought God would make sure it was only used for good!). Imagine what could be done with that? What if DNA can one day be used to determine a probable political persuasion (obviously such a thing would never be 100%, but there are some studies that suggest that genes could be a factor in political leaning)?

The erosion of liberties will be so gradual that hardly anyone will notice (Human beings are incredibly blind to slow change). This database may seem unimportant, but it's part of a trend.