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Nsa Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images


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Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to bomb an airplane, which prompted more image gathering.

The U.S. National Security Agency is intercepting massive numbers of facial images for use in its facial-recognition programs, according to documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Credit: Reuters

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is intercepting massive numbers of facial images from communications tapped from its global surveillance operations for use in facial-recognition programs, according to top-secret documents acquired from former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden.

The documents show the agency deems facial images and other physical identifiers to be just as valuable in tracking down intelligence targets as written and oral communications.

NSA stands apart from other agencies in its ability to match images with huge caches of private communications, although the University of Massachusetts' Dalila B. Megherbi says the facial-recognition algorithms can be affected by images taken from different angles and with different resolutions, which can lead to errors.

In 2010, the NSA made a breakthrough in facial recognition when analysis matched images compiled separately in two databases, and this cross-referencing ability has led to a boom of analytical uses within the agency. NSA has established identity intelligence analysis teams who develop profiles of intelligence targets by matching facial images with other records about individuals.

The documents' disclosure further worries civil-liberties proponents about privacy being jeopardized by improving technology used by government and industry. NSA ramped up its use of facial-recognition technology under the Obama administration following several intended attacks.

From The New York Times
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