REPORT: Pentagon, FBI Secretly Developed AI & Facial Recognition

According to The Washington Post, a program using facial recognition technology driven by artificial intelligence has been developed in collaboration between the Department of Defense (DOD) and the FBI. The program has been supplied to six federal agencies as well as a Pentagon agency that provides assistance to civilian law enforcement. This development has raised concerns regarding privacy rights as it has the potential to identify individuals whose facial features have been captured by drones and CCTV cameras.

Janus is the name of a program developed by Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), a research arm of the U.S. intelligence community. The program focuses on creating software that utilizes facial images obtained through public surveillance cameras without limitations. In 2019, the program manager at IARPA stated that the software had the potential to "significantly enhance" facial recognition capabilities and could "scale to identify millions of subjects." Additionally, one version of the software can identify faces at distances greater than half a mile, even if they are partially obstructed.

According to documents, research teams have developed new algorithms with the goal of "significantly broadening the scope" in which automated facial recognition can identify individuals. Several emails among FBI employees and researchers highlight discussions regarding the software's ability to analyze images using characteristics such as the "start coordinate of the face rectangle," "head pitch," and "likelihood of being male."

During 2017, the Department of Defense (DOD) compensated numerous volunteers to evaluate the performance of the system from various distances and in simulated environments such as a hospital, subway station, outdoor marketplace, and school. After undergoing development, the final version of the software was named Horus and was transferred to the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office in the DOD. This office distributes military technologies to civilian law enforcement agencies.

Many Americans have expressed apprehension regarding the utilization of facial recognition technology as it raises concerns regarding potential infringements of their privacy rights. Democratic Senator Ed Markey from Massachusetts conveyed to The Post that "the ability of Americans to move freely in our communities without constant monitoring and surveillance is rapidly eroding. We cannot tolerate the proliferation of the surveillance state, which encroaches on our individual rights and liberties, treating each one of us as suspects in an unfettered investigation that subverts our freedom."

As of May 2022, Horus is being used by a minimum of six federal agencies, with feedback provided to the DOD for the purpose of "enhancing the tool," as stated by the Department of Homeland Security. In response to apprehensions over civil liberty violations, at least a dozen cities and three states have enacted legislation that restricts or prohibits their law enforcement agencies from utilizing facial recognition technology.

The collaboration between the Department of Defense and the FBI regarding the facial recognition technology program has caused concern for many Americans who prioritize their privacy rights. While it is reasonable for law enforcement to possess specific technologies to safeguard citizens from potential threats, it is crucial that these technologies are not exploited to violate individuals' rights. It is also essential for citizens to be informed about which technologies are being utilized by law enforcement to make informed decisions about their privacy. From a conservative perspective, law enforcement should be authorized to access these technologies, but citizens should be knowledgeable about the usage of their data and have a voice in its application.

Written by Staff Reports

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