Posted on June 13, 2016 in Action Alerts

In 2008, the FBI created a new database of U.S. citizen information called the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system – it is likely the largest biometric database of any government in the world. In addition to fingerprints and criminal histories, NGI compiles detailed data on the physical appearances of U.S. citizens that enables the use of facial recognition technology. The biometric database gives unprecedented abilities to law enforcement – and that requires vigilant oversight. 

Just a few weeks ago, the FBI made an alarming request to exempt the extensive NGI biometric database from critical provisions of the Privacy Act. These exemptions would effectively make the database secretive. What’s more, the FBI gave the public just 30 days to submit their opinions and concerns about this request. AAI joined over 40 organizations in opposition to the proposed exemptions. When pushed, the FBI extended the comment period a paltry 30 additional days, to July 6th. 

We need you to join us in submitting opposing comments to the Department of Justice before July 6th

Shielding the biometric data in NGI from Privacy Act provisions poses many threats to the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of all American citizens. The requested exemptions would make it so that no U.S. citizens would be able to (1) know if their information is in the NGI system or if it is accurate, (2) petition the FBI to correct any inaccuracies in NGI files and expect speedy action, (3) know which agencies have access to NGI information, so long as it doesn’t impede FBI investigations, (4) sue the FBI if they are suspected to be in violation of the Privacy Act. These are the exemptions the FBI has requested, and that we must act to oppose.

Additionally, the broad coalition of groups opposed to this request are united in concern about how NGI data is being used, especially facial recognition technology. This new and still developing technology is known to misidentify immigrant communities, women, young people, and African Americans at much higher rates. Knowing the history of the FBI in surveilling social justice movements like the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protests, it is very plausible that NGI is already being used to surveil and disrupt peaceful political protests for Palestine, Syria, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more.

Please take a moment to submit the pre-prepared comments below to the Department of Justice articulating our concerns.