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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 29th April 2016 > A FACE ONLY BIG BROTHER COULD LOVE

A FACE ONLY BIG BROTHER COULD LOVE

Is the FBI’s new facial recognition technology a crucial crime-fighting tool or an Orwellian intrusion?

@EricMarkowitz

International Business Times

DAYS BEFORE a Pennsylvania court planned to sentence him in 1996 to years in prison for molesting three children, Lynn Cozart—a middle-aged security guard—vanished. For years, investigators searched for him, but the case went cold—that is until 2015, when Pennsylvania state police sent Cozart’s mug shot to a newly established unit of the FBI called Next Generation Identification (NGI).

Fueled by fears of another 9/11-style attack, the bureau signed a $1 billion contract with military contractor Lockheed Martin to develop NGI in 2008. Three years later, the program began a trial period, and it officially began in late 2014. Today, the FBI’s digital catalog of searchable “face photos” has ballooned to some 548 million pictures, the largest database of faces in history. It includes criminal mug shots; photos of suspected violent extremists overseas; and, thanks to an agreement with a number of state governments, driver’s licenses and ID photos of Americans who have never committed a crime.

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