Electronic Privacy Group Sues FBI Over Biometrics Information

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The advocacy group argues the FBI is removing privacy safeguards on a massive biometrics database.

A privacy advocacy group is suing the FBI over information stored in a massive biometrics database.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the FBI, looking for more information about how the bureau's biometric data about millions of Americans could be transferred to the Defense Department, according to EPIC.

The FBI operates the Next Generation Identification database, which houses facial scans, palm and fingerprints, face and tattoo photos, and other unique information that could be used to tag millions of individuals. The bureau stores information on criminals and suspects, but also people who have been vetted through government processes such as background checks for jobs and military service.

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EPIC is suing the FBI to learn more about an alleged "secret agreement" between the bureau and DOD, according to the advocacy group.

The FBI declined Nextgov's request for comment.

Earlier this summer, the FBI proposed exempting the Next Generation Identification database from the Privacy Act—legislation that requires federal agencies collecting information on individuals to allow the subjects to request to know what information is being collected and verify that information if needed.

Allowing subjects to know if their information was in the database might interfere with criminal investigations or "national security efforts," the FBI wrote in a draft posting in May. The bureau also said it might also expose a "sensitive investigative technique" or help criminals "avoid detection or apprehension."