The FBI plans to test by 2014 a database for searching iris scans nationwide to more quickly track criminals, according to budget documents and a contractor working on the project.
The Next-Generation Identification system, a multiyear $1 billion program already under way, is expanding the server capacity of the FBI’s old fingerprint database to allow for rapid matching of additional physical identifiers, including facial images and palm prints.
Today, iris scans conjure images of covert agents accessing high-security banks and laboratories. But, increasingly, law enforcement agencies are spending state and federal funds on iris recognition technology at jails to monitor inmates. Some Missouri prisons are buying the same system the FBI acquired, partly so that they can eventually exchange iris images with federal law enforcement officials. And many counties are storing pictures of prisoner irises in a nationwide database managed by a private company, BI2 Technologies.
The FBI expects to collect many of these state and local iris images, according to B12 officials and federal documents.
A May 17 budget justification document states one of the “planned accomplishments for BY13” -- the budget year that begins Oct. 1 -- is to “demonstrate iris recognition capabilities via the iris pilot.”
A June FBI advisory board memo that Nextgov reviewed states, “supervised release/corrections are candidates for the pilot, being that many already have the capability in place. The additional goal is to start to build an iris repository.” Iris recognition is a helpful identification tool, according to the memo, because it “is very accurate,” does not require human intervention and “the hardware footprint is also very small [due] to the size of the iris image.”
The aim of iris recognition at corrections facilities, according to law enforcement officials, is to promptly catch repeat offenders and suspects who try to hide their identities...