The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects to have face, fingerprint, and iris scans of at least 259 million people in its biometrics database by 2022. Is there any way to escape the mass surveillance and tracking that George Orwell warned us all about in his iconic book, 1984?
According to a recent presentation from the DHS’s Office of Procurement Operations which was reviewed by Quartz, the 259 million in the database is about 40 million more than the agency’s 2017 projections. In those estimates, the agency expected to have the data of 220 million unique identities by 2022, according to previous figures cited by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a San Francisco-based privacy rights nonprofit.
The agency is transitioning from a legacy system called IDENT to a cloud-based system (hosted by Amazon Web Services) known as Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology, or HART. The biometrics collection maintained by DHS is the world’s second-largest, behind only India’s countrywide biometric ID network in size. The traveler data kept by DHS is shared with other US agencies, state and local law enforcement, as well as foreign governments. –Quartz
Your data hasn’t been private for a long time and it won’t be ever again as long as governments believe they are allowed to hoard it – all in the name of keeping you safe, of course. The first two stages of the HART system are being developed by United States defense contractor Northrop Grumman, which won the $95 million contract in February 2018. DHS wasn’t immediately available to comment on its plans for its database.
Last month’s DHS presentation describes IDENT as an “operational biometric system for rapid identification and verification of subjects using fingerprints, iris, and face modalities.” According to further reporting by Quartz, the new HART database “builds upon the foundational functionality within IDENT,” to include voice data, DNA profiles, “scars, marks, and tattoos,” and the as-yet-undefined “other biometric modalities as required.” EFF researchers caution some of the data will be “highly subjective,” such as information gleaned during “officer encounters” and analysis of people’s “relationship patterns.”