FBI Ignores Watchdog And Fails To Make Important Security Adjustments

When the Government Accountability Office speaks, government agencies are supposed to listen and take their recommendations to heart.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the intrepid FBI, has other ideas, especially when it comes to facial recognition software.

It seems that between the software the Bureau developed itself and programs developed by law enforcement partners, and even software from Amazon, the GAO has concerns about false positive results and violations of civil liberties. The FBI does not see this as a problem even if the Amazon software matched over two dozen members of Congress to criminal mug shots.

Since 2015, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have used the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System, which uses facial recognition software to link potential suspects to crimes, pulling from a database of more than 30 million mugshots and other photos.

In May 2016, the Government Accountability Office recommended the FBI establish checks to ensure the software adhered to the Justice Department’s privacy and accuracy standards, but according to a report published Wednesday, the bureau has yet to implement any of the six proposed policy changes.

GAO added every measure to the Justice Department’s list of “priority open recommendations,” though DOJ officials previously disputed whether four of the six policies are necessary.

“By addressing these issues, DOJ would have reasonable assurance that their [facial recognition] technology provides accurate information that helps enhance, rather than hinder, criminal investigations,” Gretta Goodwin, GAO’s director of justice and law enforcement issues, told Nextgov. “Even more, DOJ would help ensure that it is sufficiently protecting the privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens.”

Auditors recommended the bureau test the accuracy and effectiveness of the NGI-IPS system at least once a year and make improvements as necessary, but FBI officials said such reviews were unnecessary because “no users have expressed concerns” with the system.

Oh, yeah, there’s a reason to ignore the boss, when the user has no problem with the system. Never mind the Americans who would be accused of a crime with a false positive match.

So much for the FBI recovering its reputation after a rough couple of years.


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