Saturday, December 22, 2007

UPON REQUEST BY YOUR EMPLOYER

FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics

$1 Billion Project to Include Images of Irises and Faces


Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, December 22, 2007; Page A01
CLARKSBURG, W. Va. -- The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.
. . . "It's going to be an essential component of tracking," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society."
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Well, it just shows you what Hitler could have done if he'd only had the money, time and technology.
I especially love the part where your employer will have free and open access to any of your "brushes with the law." How do you or I brush with the law?
  • Does a war protest count as a brush, a light touch or a skirmish?
  • How 'bout being late on alimony?
  • DUI, smoking pot, arguing in the street over a parking place?
  • Having an unpaid out-of-state speeding ticket from 20 years ago?
Incredibly, forty years ago, while dressed in a business suit and taking an after-dinner stroll, I was stopped on a public sidewalk in Beverly Hills by the police. Told that "no one walks in Beverly Hills," when I said that I certainly did and it was a public sidewalk, obviously built for pedestrian use, I was spread-eagled against a wall and told I could either do this the easy way or the hard way. I told them I opted for the hard way and they backed off, with accompanying snears and threats, but we had not yet become a true police state. There has been progress since then in the policing business. Under the new process (I hesitate to designate it as a law), not only would that fascist behavior be legal, but would be duly reported to my employer. And yet we will nod, shrug, perhaps raise an eyebrow and this too will pass as we further Balkanize America, fire up a mob-mentality against immigration, feed the hungers of racism and become an entirely intolerable place to live. But we will by-god be safe, whatever that happens to mean--even if it comes to mean cowering in a safe basement instead of walking with our children and neighbors in the free (and problematic) association with those to whom we used to tip our hat instead of give the finger. I choose problematic. I choose 'the hard way' when it comes to cops threatening me on public sidewalks.

* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Civil Rights, check out Opinion-Columns.com