NSA Grabs 'Millions of Images Per Day' Online
New Snowden documents reveal facial-recognition efforts
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2014 4:13 PM CDT
In this image taken from video provided by NBC News on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, Edward Snowden speaks to NBC News anchor Brian Williams.   (AP Photo/NBC News)

(Newser) – Move over, metadata and voice-call collection: The NSA is also harvesting images and trying to identify them with facial-recognition software, the New York Times reports. According to 2011 agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA grabs "millions of images per day"—about 55,000 of which are good enough for facial recognition. The agency doesn't take them from state databases of US passport photos or driver's licenses, said an NSA spokeswoman, but she wouldn't say whether social media sites or State Department databases were fair game.

Law enforcement agencies already create facial-imagery databases—relying on Facebook and driver's-license photos, for example—and the FBI is combining fingerprints with facial imagery and other data. But the NSA can match its images with vast troves of information it has already intercepted. So, is this legal? The NSA would need court approval to snatch images of Americans, the Times notes, unless they contacted someone overseas. The technology isn't foolproof, and gives its share of false positives, but civil-liberties advocates are still concerned. The facial-recognition debate has cropped up before—like in 2011, when Facebook introduced automatic tagging, TechCrunch notes, and later turned off a tagging feature in Europe after an investigation by Irish authorities, reports PC World.

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Showing 3 of 45 comments
Jun 5, 2014 9:43 PM CDT
Those millions of images? Don't worry. That's just Larry in accounting looking at porn.
geral sosbee
Jun 4, 2014 4:42 PM CDT
The human brain is under assault, literally. alt links: http://www.indymedia.org.nz/articles/2751 http://sosbeevfbi.ning.com/profiles/blogs/see-recent-crimes-by-fbi?xg_source=activity http://www.newciv.org/nl/newslog.php/_v194/__show_article/_a000194-000586.htm
Lou Bernardo
Jun 2, 2014 10:08 PM CDT
People are worried about photos but not concerned in the least of Obama by-passing Congress and enacting unconstitutional laws for everyone.