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FBI finishes $1B facial recognition system

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Posted at 12:05 PM, Sep 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-16 12:05:30-04

It's a program that still sounds futuristic, even today. The FBI announced its facial recognition program is finally up and running — and it has some privacy advocates a little concerned.

Labeled as the “Next Generation Identification System," or NGI, the $1-billion program has been in development since at least 2008 when the FBI announced it was granting Lockheed Martin a contract to start building it.

As you’d expect with facial recognition technology, NGI will pull in photos “associated with criminal identities” and compare them to millions of other photos taken from various sources.

The system has been used successfully at least once already, helping catch longtime fugitive Neil Stammer.

He had been on the run from the FBI for 14 years but was found in Nepal when the U.S. Department of State found his photo on a passport with a different name.

Using a Freedom of Information Act request, the Electronic Frontier Foundation obtained FBI documents showing the agency plans to have 52 million photos in its database by 2015.

Here's where we get to the part that has privacy activists concerned.

Along with the fact that non-criminal photos are being stored in the database, the EFF says the FBI won't take responsibility for inaccurate matches. Also, nearly a million of the database's photos will come from unexplained sources.

To learn more, watch this Newsy video.