13:25 GMT28 May 2020
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    The FBI is fighting to keep citizens from knowing if their information is contained in a massive biometric database called the “Next Generation Identification System,” which collects palm prints, fingerprints, iris scans, facial and tattoo photographs, and biographies for millions of Americans.

    The agency claims that if people know their information is stored in the database it could will “compromise” law enforcement investigations. On Thursday, the Justice Department proposed that the database be exempt from certain provisions of the Privacy Act, Nextgov reported.

    The Privacy Act requires agencies to share the information they have collected on individuals with that person, but the agency claims that this level of transparency would compromise their “sensitive investigative technique.”

    “Application of this provision could present a serious impediment to the FBI’s responsibilities to detect, deter, and prosecute crimes and to protect the national security. Application of these provisions would put the subject of an investigation on notice of that fact and allow the subject an opportunity to engage in conduct intended to impede that activity or avoid apprehension,” according to a document posted online by the FBI.

    Privacy advocates argue point out that allowing an exemption sets a precedent, permitting law enforcement to collect any information they want, without informing the citizen they are targeting. 

    “If you have no ability to access the record the FBI has on you, even when you’re not part of an investigation or under investigation, and lo and behold inaccurate information forms a ‘pattern of activity’ that then subjects you to [be] the focus of the FBI, then that’s a problem,” Jeramie Scott, a national security counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a research group advocating for digital civil liberties, told Nextgov. 

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    Next Generation Identification System, Privacy Act, Privacy, Biometrics
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