Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department – the fourth largest local policing agency in the United States – has taken another step towards building the biggest biometric database outside of the FBI’s by inking a new $24 million contract.

Lt. Thai, the Sheriff’s Department employee tasked with implementing MBIS for LA County, told The Epoch Times last year that law enforcement officers won’t collect biometric data on innocent Los Angelenos, but rather on individuals that have been arrested and booked in county jail or any of downtown LA’s holding centers. Criminal charges don’t always lend to successful convictions, however, meaning potentially millions of records pertaining to non-criminal Californians stand to end up in the database and thus at the disposal of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.

Allegations concerning an absence of oversight and proper privacy protections have alarmed digital rights advocates, however, and DC-based watchdog the Electronic Privacy Information Center previously sued the FBI in hopes of having the bureau disclose as much information as possible about the still infant system.
“The NGI database will include photographic images of millions of individuals who are neither criminals nor suspects,” attorneys for EPIC previously argued in legal motions.

News concerning the LASD’s contract with NEC was announced less than a week after the Texas firm confirmed that law enforcement agencies in two nearby counties – San Bernardino and Riverside – had entered into similar biometric contracts with the company. Two months earlier, NEC announced that its Integra-ID5 MBIS platform was being leased as a service model to the Western Identification Network, allowing eight states – including Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, and Montana – to take advantage of the system.

The Hong Kong office for NEC has previously suggested that its facial recognition technology may “hold the key to facing the challenges of maintaining public order.” Meanwhile, its Tokyo branch was slated to show attendees at the 82nd ICPO-INTERPOL General Assembly Exhibition in Colombia how facial images, surveillance video footage and other “physical sensor networks” could be combined with “cyber information surveillance” obtained by monitoring Facebook accounts, blogs, message boards and chat rooms in order “to identify the true source of an attack and physically locate a cyber-criminal.”

For now, though, LA County law enforcement is expected to implement their new biometric system without using it in concert with social media surveillance.

It could be somebody gets pulled over for a traffic violation and he or she does not have a driver’s license on him or her, and the officer is just trying to identify this person,” Lt. Thai said last year to a local NBC News affiliate in explaining the positive benefits of the system.

As NBC acknowledged at the time, however, any data being stored in such a system will, for now, stay there for longer than the length of just a routine traffic stop. According to that report, biometric information collected by the FBI on a person without a criminal record will be purged when he or she turns 75.
Continued - California cops sign contract to begin using massive biometric database