Watchdog slams FBI's facial recognition database testing

Watchdog slams FBI's facial recognition database testing
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The FBI has not appropriately tested its facial recognition database, according to a government watchdog report released on Wednesday.

The agency maintains a database — called the Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS) — of photos and other biometric data that can be used in pursuing cases.

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the agency had only done "limited" testing of its accuracy in situations in which officers were summoning a list of more than 50 potential matches, and did no testing when summoning a list of fewer than 50 potential matches.

It also hasn’t tested the accuracy of the state and federal systems the FBI can access during investigations.

“By taking such steps, the FBI could better ensure the data received from external partners is sufficiently accurate and do not unnecessarily include photos of innocent people as investigative leads,” said the watchdog.

Privacy advocates in Washington were upset by the findings of the report, which also hit the FBI for the way it discloses information about the system and other elements of the program.

“This GAO report raises some very serious concerns, and reveals that the FBI’s use of facial recognition technology is far greater than had previously been understood,” Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' Take Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact MORE (D-Minn.) said in a statement.

“This is especially concerning because the report shows that the FBI hasn’t done enough to audit its own use of facial recognition technology or that of other law enforcement agencies that partner with the FBI, nor has it taken adequate steps to ensure the technology’s accuracy.”

The report comes not long after advocates, as well as Uber and Lyft, decried a proposal they said would make it hard for Americans to learn what kinds of data were being held about them in the system.