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FBI’s facial recognition program hits ‘full operational capability’

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Next Generation Identification System, a biometric database reliant on tens of millions of facial-recognition records, is now fully operational, the agency announced Monday.

The NGI system, after three years of development, is billed by the FBI as a new breakthrough for criminal identification and data-sharing between law enforcement agencies.

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Reuters / Chip East

“This effort is a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler,” the FBI said in a statement.

The NGI database contains over 100 million individual records that link a person’s fingerprints, palm prints, iris scans and facial-recognition data with personal information like their home address, age, legal status and other potentially compromising details.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the NGI is the facial-recognition information, which civil liberties advocates have said for years is among the most serious future threats to Americans’ privacy. The NGI database is expected to contain 52 million facial-recognition images alone by 2015.

The FBI said Monday that two new features of the database are now complete, capping off the NGI’s“operational capability.”

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