Watchdog: FBI has access to 640M photos for facial recognition searches

A representative with the government’s top watchdog on Tuesday revealed that the FBI has access to a database of roughly 640 million photos that can be used for facial recognition searches. 

Gretta Goodwin, a representative with the Government Accountability Office, said during a House hearing on Tuesday that the FBI uses expansive databases of photos, including from driver’s licenses, passports and mugshots, to search for potential criminals.

She noted that the FBI maintains a database of 36 million mugshot photos, called the Interstate Photo System, but has access to a total of more than 600 million photos across multiple databases, including 21 state driver’s license directories.{mosads}

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, responded with surprise to the number at Tuesday’s hearing. “640 million photos,” he repeated. “There are only 330 million people in the country.”  

The exchange came during an Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on the government’s use of facial recognition technology, which featured witnesses from the FBI, Transportation Security Administration and other federal agencies.

Kimberly Del Greco, a deputy assistant director at the FBI, emphasized that the bureau only uses facial recognition technology to help with ongoing criminal investigations. 

She said the software “aids in our ability to solve crimes across the country.” 


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