The software used in everything from street cameras to drones was developed in part by the Pentagon.
Internal documents made public due to a lawsuit response have shown that the US government was profoundly involved in the research and development of facial recognition software they were hoping to use for mass surveillance.
The FBI and Defense Department were actively involved in R&D to help identify people from footage.
According to the documents, the FBI and Department of Defense were actively involved in facial recognition software research and development in the hopes of being able to identify people whose images were captured in street camera and flying drone footage. There were thousands of pages to the documents, detailing the government’s intention to develop a powerful advanced surveillance tool.
The documents were made public as a part of a response within the ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed against the FBI by the American Civil Liberties Union. They illustrate that the FBI and Defense Department officials worked closely with academic researchers to improve artificial intelligence methods that could be used in tracking or identifying Americans without their consent or even awareness.
Many of the facial recognition technology documents had to do with the Janus program.
The Janus program received its funding from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), which is the highest US intelligence community branch, which was modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) at the Pentagon.
The Janis program leaders worked with scientists from the FBI as well as some of the top computer vision experts in the country for designing and testing software that would rapidly and accurately process the “truly unconstrained face imagery” public surveillance cameras – such as those on street corners or subway stations – provide. This was initially revealed through the media in a report in The Washington Post.
The documents are as recent as 2019 and do not provide any details as to how any of the facial recognition research described is currently being used. No details are provided regarding further development or deployment of the research after 2019, though similar tech is becoming increasingly commonplace in federal investigations and is used by some local police.