EFF Sues FBI: Hey Before You Launch New Face Recognition Tool, Can You Respond To Our FOIA On Old Tool?

from the just-saying dept

The folks over at EFF have now sued the FBI concerning a set of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that the FBI has failed to respond to concerning its use of various biometric tools, such as face recognition. The EFF finds this to be especially pernicious, since the FBI has gleefully announced plans to expand these efforts, without any information or public debate on how its existing programs have worked (or, as the case may be, not worked):

In the complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, EFF is asking a judge to enforce EFF’s FOIA requests, which were sent to the FBI in June and July of last year. The information sought includes agreements and discussions between the FBI and various state agencies regarding the face-recognition program; records addressing the reliability of face-recognition technology; and documentation of the FBI’s plan to merge civilian and criminal records in a single repository. EFF is also seeking disclosure of the total number of face-recognition capable records currently in the FBI’s database, as well as the proposed number at deployment.

NGI will have an unprecedented impact on Americans’ privacy interests, and yet the FBI has not updated its Privacy Impact Assessment since 2008, well before it built the system and signed agreements with several states for an early roll-out of the program.

“Before the federal government decides to expand its surveillance powers, there needs to be a public debate,” Lynch says. “But there can be no public debate until the details of the program are presented to the public.”

Yet again, with our intelligence agencies, it appears that the federal government seems to feel that it can do whatever it wants, and any attempt to answer to the public is to be ignored at all costs.

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Companies: eff

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Comments on “EFF Sues FBI: Hey Before You Launch New Face Recognition Tool, Can You Respond To Our FOIA On Old Tool?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

I’ll take this a step further in the other direction. I want to formally propose that the EFF, based on it’s earned and well deserved trust for defending the general public’s interests and Constitutional rights, be officially given oversight authority for all federal programs that pertain to these interests and rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

You want to elect the EFF to Congress?

Let’s assume you’re making a serious proposal (I have my doubts about how serious you were?but lay that aside.)

I would say that oversight is a core function of the legislature. Oversight, of course, is not quite in the same vein as the enactment of bills into public law. Thus there wouldn’t be quite the same non-delegation concerns. Still, though, I would have some different concerns along the lines of non-delegation, even though I’m not saying oversight is an exclusive function of the legislature. It’s just that oversight is a responsibility the legislature should not shirk.

Take the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), described as ?hitherto a toothless watchdog?. It’s all too easy for the government to dump off its oversight responsibilities onto some obscure commission and then declare ?problem solved!?. Politicians are prone to that.

But note that the PCLOB does not have the benefit of the speech and debate clause. It does not have subpoena power. It has no sergeant-at-arms with the inherent power to jail recalcitrant and obstructive persons. It doesn’t even have its own journal in which may freely publish. I don’t know if it even has the power to make its own rules for its own proceedings.

You want to elect the EFF to Congress?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

I said nothing about electing the EFF to the legislature. I merely suggested that they have proved that they were worthy of serving in an oversight role that was supposed to be served by Congress which has failed to provide any useful function in any sense of the word. I never advocated that they should be come law makers but rather that they merely sit as advocates for the public privy to the insight to related policies and procedures as overseers that can inform the public when they are being betrayed by their government.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

I said nothing about electing the EFF to the legislature. I merely suggested that?

You know, we see this scenario play out all the time in Washington:

There’s a problem, so Congress or the President selects an official, or group of officials, and puts them in charge of Doing This? or Doing That?. And then, Congress, or the President, puts out a press release trumpeting how they’ve addressed the problem.

But the politicians don’t give any budget authority to the Officials In Charge? of Doing This? or Doing That?.

So you know what? What a funny joke! Without budget authority?you’re nothing.

The reason why Congressional oversight committees work at all ?to the extent that they do work? is most of all due to their relationship with the appropriations committees. Forget the impeachment power, Congress doesn’t use it often enough to make it a credible stick.

Structurally, it’s not really so much that Congress can’t delegate its oversight authority per se. It’s that Congress can’t ?or won’t? ?but often, in a definite sense, can’t? Congress can’t really delegate the powers and authorities needed to make genuine oversight more than a laughing stock.

Do you want to give the EFF power to make appropriations from the treasury?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

I was suggesting that a worthy organization such as the EFF could be give special power simply to watch and review the actions of the government such that they legally had the power to declassify information about actions that were abusive and inform the people when such actions occur.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

Congress can’t handle the task of overseeing government tasks to make sure that they are not abusing the public so maybe it is time to hand off that task to someone else who has proven themselves worthy of accomplishing the task.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

PCLOB could be given the power that I am suggesting, however the problem there is that it is subject to manipulation by special interest groups lobbying Congress that can control who gets appointed to it to ensure that it acts in accordance to their wishes instead of the public’s interests. The EFF’s history shows that it is not subject to that sort of manipulation and thus is worthy of being granted such power.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Supporting EFF Means You're A Security Risk?

No one wonders why the FBI thinks EFF supporters are “bad guys.” We are all acutely aware of the fact that the FBI as well as the other alphabet agencies think any group that gives citizens agency is the “bad guys” because they don’t like being held accountable. In short: the real bad guys think the real good guys are bad guys because the bad guys are bad and the good guys are good.

Anonymous Coward says:

I give the EFF credit for trying to hold the government accountable by filing complaints though official government channels (federal courts).

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the EFF and ACLU. I just don’t see how they expect to change anything using channels the government control.

Kind of like how congress set up official whistle blower channels for whistle blowers to use. What a joke!

Anonymous Coward says:

“Yet again…it appears that the federal government seems to feel that it can do whatever it wants, and any attempt to answer to the public is to be ignored at all costs”. That’s because the government has learned that IT CAN. The government feels it can get away with anything because IT CAN. That’s what the American people have taught it. The government knows that there will be no reprisals from the people. Oh sure, the American people will pee and moan, but they won’t DO anything. As long as the people can stuff their gut and drink their beer and watch their NASCAR, football, and so-called reality TV, they’re happy. By and large the American people are a bunch of brainwashed flag-wavers who don’t have the brains or the guts to do what needs to be done.

Anonymous Coward says:

if the people of the USA cannot see that law enforcement agencies, security services, police and every other type of body that can be used to keep the ordinary people under control is being not just implemented but increased in numbers and types, they need kicking up the arse! it will not be very long at all, if it isn’t already at the gate, when no one is going to be allowed to do anything, say anything, go anywhere without getting a permit of some description which has to be applied for months in advance! it is very soon going to be a totally police controlled state and it is doing whatever it can to force other countries to adopt the same ideals and procedures. when it finally gets to that inevitable stage, there will be no turning back and the world can look forward to decades of things that so far have been nothing other than make believe coming out of Hollywood! conspiracy theory? maybe, but just look at how things have changed since world war II. it has gone from a complete mess, to helping as many as possible, as much as possible, to trying to dominate the entire planet! i think we are on the way out and look at how it started!

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