The FBI is starting a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, says the Washington Post. The project would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the U.S. and abroad. Digital images of faces, fingerprints, and palm patterns already are flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement in West Virginia. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives.
In coming years, law enforcers around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars, and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will retain, on request by employers, fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if they have brushes with the law. “Bigger. Faster. Better. That’s the bottom line,” said Thomas E. Bush III of the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division. The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about peoples’ ability avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people’s bodies will become de facto identification cards.