The FBI doesn’t want Americans knowing if their biometric data is stored in its Next Generation Identification system, replete with finger and palm prints, iris and facial scans. And despite concerns from privacy and civil liberties groups that the Bureau is collecting this information through unsavory means, it can keep these records secret.
On May 5, the Justice Department submitted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to the federal register, publicly exempting the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s NGI system from several provisions of the Privacy Act, which requires federal agencies to share a subject’s files so that the information can be verified or corrected. According to the submission, the FBI seeks exemption because disclosing that the information exists could interfere with the Bureau’s ability to “detect, deter, and prosecute crimes.”
Why then, nearly two years after the current version of NGI was implemented, has the Justice Department now made this submission to the federal register?
“It’s possible that someone woke up and realized that they needed to do this in order to bring their actions that they were already carrying out into conformity with the law,” says Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).