FBI Has Collected 430,000 Iris Scans In ‘Pilot Program’

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: The Verge has obtained documents that reveal the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department has been collecting iris data from at least 200,000 arrestees over the last two and a half years. The department was collecting an average of 189 iris scans each day in the early months of 2016. The activity is part of a larger pilot program organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Since its launch in 2013, the program has stockpiled iris scans from 434,000 arrestees, an FBI spokesperson confirmed,” reports The Verge. Through information-sharing agreements with various other agencies across the country, the new national biometric database stretches the traditional boundaries of a pilot program, and just barely stays out of reach of privacy mandates. The Verge reports: “A 2013 memo signed by representatives from the FBI and California Department of Justice summarizes responsibilities. At that time, according to the memo, the FBI had more than 30,000 images but did not have a way to search through them. The length of the California program was to be kept at one year, and reassessed after, but the documents show the partnership has been renewed every year since. The FBI would not comment on numbers from any particular source. However, ‘operations reports’ obtained by The Verge through the California Public Records Act requests the catalogue of the program’s progress and suggest the state has been a major asset in the construction of the database. A document dated February of this year lists more than a quarter of a million ‘enrollments’ in the database from the California Department of Justice. In both 2014 and 2015, according to the document, more than 100,000 records were added to the system. Those scans are sent to the FBI by the California Justice Department, which in turn receives them from three counties: Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside. Despite its relatively small population, the documents show San Bernardino County made more than 190,000 enrollments alone since 2014, far outpacing Los Angeles and Riverside counties.” The pilot program has no privacy impact assessment “because the pilot was conducted with very limited participation for a limited period of time in order to evaluate iris technology,” an FBI representative told The Verge. The vast majority of the 430,000 enrollments were added after that determination was made. The bureau is reportedly in the process of creating a privacy impact assessment but there’s no word as to when that will be complete. In June, the Government Accountability Office published a report that says the FBI has access to hundreds of millions of photos.


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