(Ken Silva, Headline USA) The FBI and Department of Defense have been secretly building facial recognition technology for years to be used for mass surveillance of Americans, according to documents obtained by the ACLU.
BREAKING: We obtained thousands of documents revealing the FBI’s major investment in developing face recognition software that could allow the government to identify and track millions of people at a time.
— ACLU (@ACLU) March 7, 2023
The documents, which the ACLU provided to the Washington Post, reportedly show that Pentagon officials worked with FBI scientists to design software that would quickly and accurately process the “truly unconstrained face imagery” recorded by surveillance cameras in public places, including subway stations and street corners.
This project was reportedly code-named Janus, a reference to the two-faced Roman god.
“To refine the system’s capabilities, researchers staged a data-gathering test in 2017, paying dozens of volunteers to simulate real-world scenarios at a Defense Department training facility made to resemble a hospital, a subway station, an outdoor marketplace and a school, the documents show. The test yielded thousands of surveillance videos and images, some of which were captured by a drone,” the Post reported.
The Janus project officially ended in 2020, according to the Post. However, its work was reportedly then folded into the web-based interface Horus—named for another deity, this one the falcon-headed Egyptian god of the sky.
According to the report, the facial recognition technology has since been made available to civilian police forces.
“The improved facial recognition system was ultimately folded into a search tool, called Horus, and made available to the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, which helps provide military technologies to civilian police forces, the documents show,” the Post reported.
According to the Post, the facial recognition system is part of a broader FBI surveillance database, called Next Generation Identification, which contains the fingerprints, palm prints, face photos and eye patterns collected from millions of people applying for citizenship, getting booked into jail or requesting job background checks.
The FBI signed a $120,000 contract earlier this year with Clearview AI, the facial recognition company that developed its software by illegally scraping millions of social media photos from the internet—meaning there’s a good chance your social media photos are being used by the FBI to develop its tech.
The Post’s story included a choice quote from FBI Director Chris Wray, who in January feigned concern that the Chinese government could develop mass surveillance technology like what his bureau already has.
“AI is a classic example of a technology where I have the same reaction every time. I think, ‘Wow, we can do that?’ And then I think, ‘Oh, God, they can do that,’” Wray reportedly said in January.
Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.