BOSS, Meet The Next Generation

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Do you have a right to the image on your driver’s license or does the presence of that picture in a state database make it fair game for use and review by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security?

The Department of Homeland Security is developing the Biometric Optical Surveillance System (BOSS) as part of its Standoff Technology Integration and Demonstration Program. As described by Homeland Security, BOSS uses two cameras that take stereoscopic images sent by fiberoptic or wireless transmission. Purported to have the ability to obtain images at 50 to 100 meters, the system can be set to photograph people moving at a distance, or those walking passively in front of a camera.

Concurrently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has developed the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, a program aimed at collecting multimodal biometric information including the following:

  • Fingerprints
  • Palm prints
  • Tattoo images
  • Iris scans
  • Facial images

While the use of technology to aid and assist in legal crime fighting is a boon to society, it is easy to imagine — and to see — the related invasion of privacy of innocent citizens and the violation of the rights of those accused of crimes.

Civil protections from these surveillance systems seem frighteningly antiquated, and yet governmental funding for the development and deployment of these programs shows no sign of abatement.

Someday, your face may be scanned in a crowd and identified, and your criminal history quickly evaluated. According to experts, “someday” is little more than about five years away.