Looks like we have yet another example of “they” trying to get “us.” The FBI is reportedly working on tattoo recognition technology to profile people.

An investigation conducted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation [EFF] has found that the FBI is using automated computer algorithms to identify people by their tattoos.


Right now, government scientists are working with the FBI to develop tattoo recognition technology that police can use to learn as much as possible about people through their tattoos. But an EFF investigation has found that these experiments exploit inmates, with little regard for the research’s implications for privacy, free expression, religious freedom, and the right to associate. And so far, researchers have avoided ethical oversight while doing it…EFF has been filing public records requests around the country to reveal how law enforcement agencies are using mobile biometric technology—including facial recognition, digital fingerprinting, and iris scanning—to identify people based on their physical and behavioral characteristics. As part of this investigation, we learned that the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), one of the oldest federal scientific institutions, began an initiative in 2014 to promote and refine automated tattoo recognition technology for the FBI…The FBI’s plans for automated tattoo recognition go beyond developing algorithms that can identify people by their tattoos. The experiments facilitated by NIST also focused on improving technology that can map connections between people with similarly themed tattoos or make inferences about people from their tattoos (e.g. political ideology, religious beliefs). On top of the free speech concerns, the project should raise red flags for religious liberty advocates, since many of the experiments involved sorting people and their tattoos based on Christian iconography.

So, pretty much, the same way government agencies tend to lump people together based off skin color, class and location, they are attempting to to add tattoos to that logic. The EFF fears examples like anyone with a crucifix tattooed on their arm, neck or face could be labeled as suspect if someone with a cross tattooed on them happens to do anything crazy. You can read the entire report here.

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