The FBI will soon begin to compile a database of 100,000 tattoo images, with assistance from the Tennessee Department of Correction, Michigan State Police, and Pinellas County Sherriff’s Office in Florida.
According to Newser, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is not in agreement with the FBI’s new plan, believing that the idea has serious problems and poses a threat to civil liberties. The foundation believes that the only reasonable option is to suspend the effort immediately.
The FBI and National Institue of Standard and Technology initially launched this initiative back in 2014 as Tatt-c and are currently transitioning into a new phase, called Tatt-E. Officials believe that the database of tattoos will function as a “recognition system,” similar to the way fingerprint systems do now.
However, it has also been reported that the FBI plans to implement algorithms to flag information embedded within the tattoos, such as signs of criminal affiliations or radical beliefs.
The EFF has expressed their concern about the innovative technology being used to profile people based on their ink and that this method would raise “significant First Amendment questions.”
The foundation also claims that this strategy poses significant privacy concerns. They specifically cite one example where approximately 15,000 photos were distributed to unrelated parties, “with little restriction on how the images may be used or shared.”
Furthermore, the EFF also alleges that the photographs of the tattoos are obtained under pressure. However, Gizmodo believes that this method is parallel to other strategies used by authorities, such as face recognition.
Mai Ngan of the NSIT told Business Insider in 2015 that about 20% of Americans have tattoos, but that these figures substantially increase among criminals. These statistics are compelling evidence for authorities to begin using technologies that can assist in tattoo recognition.