by Glyn Moody

Filed Under:
argentina, biometric database, privacy

Argentina Building Huge Biometric Database For Use With Police's Face Recognition Technology

from the you-can-run-but-you-can't-hide dept

One of the more unfortunate consequences of Moore's Law is that technologies that erode privacy are becoming cheaper every year – and hence more attractive to governments eager to spy on their own populace. The latest to heed the siren call of mass surveillance is Argentina.

At the end of last year, the Argentinian President ordered the creation of a new, centralized, nationwide biometric ID database for law enforcement purposes, known as SIBIOS. A decree from the beginning of this year allows 14 million digitized fingerprints, gathered as part of Argentina's national ID system, to be added to SIBIOS. It's actually even worse than that, as this post from the EFF about the scope of the police database explains:

the SIBIOS will be fully "integrated" with existing ID card databases, which, aside from biometric identifiers, include an individuals’ digital image, civil status, blood type, and key background information collected since her birth and across the various life stages.
Add in the fact that the Argentinian police force already has face recognition technology that it is being encouraged to use to link unidentified faces obtained through surveillance cameras with identified images from the SIBIOS system, and the results are potentially disturbing:
Given the prevalence of street cameras and how easy it has become to identify one unnamed face amidst thousands, individuals who care about their privacy and anonymity will have a very difficult time protecting their identity from biometrics databases in the imminent future. There are extreme unforeseen risks in a world where an individual’s photo, taken from a street camera or a social network, can be linked to their national ID card.
That's worrying given Argentina's political history, as the activist Beatriz Busaniche of Fundacion Via Libre points out in the EFF piece:
Privacy is particularly crucial for our country since throughout our long history of social and political movements, calls for action have often taken to the streets. It is of higher importance for activists to remain anonymous in their demonstrations, especially when they are at odds with the government itself. In this way, SIBIOS not only challenges their privacy and data protection rights, but also poses serious threats to their civil and political rights.
Nor is that concern purely an Argentinian issue. In a world where Occupy movements are increasingly taking to the streets, the use of the latest technology to identify protesters automatically, and to link them to detailed files held on government databases, is likely to affect ever-more people around the globe.

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  • identicon
    Yogi, 17 Jan 2012 @ 6:21am


    Obviously, nothing can go wrong with this plan.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Loki, 17 Jan 2012 @ 6:36am

      Re: So?


      As I was reading this, I was thinking about the recent story about government and technology and how one of the biggest problems is that due to bureaucracy they are often at least one, if not two or three generations behind the latest tech.

      Now cue hackers, who in some cases have the best of the best.

      Enter: government storehouse with all the personal information you will ever need on anyone.

      I don't see the word target written there at all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Machin Shin (profile), 17 Jan 2012 @ 6:33am

    Yeah this system will be great at finding those hardened criminals! You know, the ones who wear masks, bandanas, or motorcycle helmets. Oh, wait.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2012 @ 6:33am

    Yeah, look at the UK for an example of how well this sort of tech is implemented and used!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2012 @ 6:52am

    So this the making of V for Vendetta... IRL

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eileen (profile), 17 Jan 2012 @ 7:04am

    This has already been used in the US for 10 years.

    My boyfriend, who is European but a permanent resident (getting citizenship soon), went to the Iraq war protests in DC way back in 2001. Pretty much the only 'activism' he's ever been involved in. As he said to me "I remember the cameras on the tops of the buildings..." They were relentlessly taking pictures every day, all day while the protests went on.

    Soon after that, he clearly was on a "list" because he was flagged for "random" screenings before every. single. flight. He takes dozens per year, and every single time he checks luggage it has a friendly slip from the TSA in it. When he flies overseas, the luggage usually gets "lost". We've learned to pack really light.

    This year, finally, it seems to have subsided. After ten years of looking through clothes, toiletries, and science books, I guess they got tired of not finding anything.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), 17 Jan 2012 @ 7:16am

      Re: Invasive Procedures

      Science books, you say? Science!?

      Isn't "SCIENCE" what people use to make explosives?!?

      I'm surprised he wasn't detained indefinitely at Guantanamo without trial...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Osno (profile), 17 Jan 2012 @ 7:10am

    The worst part of it is that there's not that many cameras. But the few cameras that are in use now are placed in public places where most of us demonstrate when we need to (specifically in front of very public government institutions like parliament and government dependencies). The only exception to that is Tigre, which is overpopulated with cameras everywhere.

    BTW, I hate to be blunt but the Occupy movements are new an not very well organized. Here in Latin America we have a long history of public demonstrations (I'll say, over 60 years). Occupying public places is part of our democratic culture, and has always been.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Overcast (profile), 17 Jan 2012 @ 7:16am

    Papers Please...

    Oh wait, we digitized them. Now they can be more efficient and if a crazed leader gets in power, he can slaughter more efficiently too.

    Oh but that will never happen, of course, it's the modern age. History never repeats itself, as we all know.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2012 @ 1:57pm

    At the moment people can still use makeup to confuse recognition software, in the future I guess protesters will have to ware masks if they don't want to be target by authorities.

    Just don't use invisible ink(i.e. lemon juice) to make yourself invisible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Meanie, 17 Jan 2012 @ 2:50pm

    "It's no longer a blue world, Max. Where could we go?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2012 @ 3:38pm

    Are gov't officials in that database too?

    It's bad enough that systems like are being set up at all, but I think it should be absolutely required for all public officials (including the police) to be in that database also. Their movements need to be tracked, just like every other 'innocent' person.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 18 Jan 2012 @ 10:39am

    Friendly dictator?

    "Hitler would have loved this system" is a sure way to lose an argument with a member of the surveillance-industrial complex. But their response of "the US, Britain, Canada, etc." would never do that won't work here. They were worried about death squad comebacks in Argentina in 2006, and death squads can be from the government as much as anyone else in some areas of the world. For example, do you really want a Mexican police force run by the Cartels having access to all this?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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