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.