FBI Moving Fast To Take Down Your Rights!

Posted: June 30, 2016 in Call to Action, Fight Back, For your information

We have just one week to stop the FBI’s latest assault on our civil rights.

The FBI is trying to exempt its facial recognition database from key transparency and accountability requirements in the Privacy Act.1 These requirements are meant to prevent FBI surveillance of constitutionally protected civil rights like freedom of speech and right to assembly. This is a huge deal for our communities. Why?

  • This exemption would allow the FBI to cover up illegal surveillance of Black activists and block our ability to file lawsuits to stop them.2
  • The facial recognition system uses an image database that disproportionately targets young people of color. This exemption would blockour ability to track that racially biased impact.
  • This system misidentifies Black folks as criminal suspects at higher rates than white people – yet the FBI exemption would block our ability to identify and correct these racial bias errors.3

With built-in racial bias and no public oversight, this system is guaranteed to harm our communities, ensuring that Black folks get stopped by police more often and put in jail more often. We have just days left to stop this dangerous FBI power grab. 

Demand the DOJ reject the FBI’s racially biased Privacy Act exemption.

You could be in this FBI system right now, and never find out about it if the FBI gets this Privacy Act exemption. Currently, if you apply for any type of job that requires fingerprinting or a background check – such as a day care worker or an Uber or taxi driver – you will be entered in the FBI’s system. This means you could become a suspect in a criminal case merely because you applied for a job that required a background check.

Along with people convicted of a crime, suspects and detainees, the NGI system includes data from people fingerprinted for jobs, driver’s licenses, military or volunteer service, background checks, security clearances, and naturalization, among other government processes. In fact, based on the FBI’s own estimates, at least 1 in every 6 ColorOfChange members could unknowingly be in this database.4 For many of us, just having a driver’s license means that we are now trackable through this nefarious FBI system.

The law requires that the FBI release basic information about the Next Generation Identification System (NGI) to the public. For years, the FBI failed to do that.5 Now, the FBI wants to make NGI effectively secret – and strip us of our right to sue the FBI for privacy violations.6

Since this system relies heavily on data gathered from Black folks it is very likely that Black folks will end up being disproportionately targeted. If the FBI’s Privacy Act exemption is allowed to move forward, we will be blocked from knowing how badly this system is hurting our communities. We cannot let something that can do so much damage to Black communities move forward. We have just one week left to demand the DOJ block the FBI. 

Demand the DOJ reject the FBI’s exemption Privacy Act exemption.

Until Justice is Real,

–Brandi, Rashad, Arisha, Evan, Bernard and the rest of the ColorOfChange team.



2. “FBI Documents Reveal New Information on Baltimore Surveillance Flights,” ACLU, 10-30-2015

3. “Facial-Recognition Software Might Have a Racial Bias Problem,” The Atlantic, 04-7-2016

4. “FBI Plans to Have 52 Million Photos in its NGI Face Recognition Database by Next Year,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, 04-14-2014

5. “Letter to Attorney General Holder re. Privacy Issues with FBI’s Next Generation Identification Database,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, 01-24-2014

6. “Federal Register / Vol. 81, No. 87 / Thursday, May 5, 2016 / Proposed Rules,” Government Printing Office, 05-05-2016


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