Posts Tagged ‘ Activity ’

To Prevent Escapes, Police Start Scanning Irises of Suspects

Nov 16th, 2010 | By | Category: News

The New York Police Department has begun photographing the irises of people who are arrested in an effort to prevent escapes as suspects move through the court system, a police official said Monday. Officials began photographing the irises of suspects arrested for any reason on Monday at Manhattan Central Booking and expect to expand the program to all five boroughs by early December, Mr. Browne said.


Published: November 15, 2010

The New York Police Department has begun photographing the irises of people who are arrested in an effort to prevent escapes as suspects move through the court system, a police official said Monday.

The program was instituted after two embarrassing episodes early this year in which prisoners arrested on serious charges tricked the authorities into freeing them by posing at arraignment as suspects facing minor cases. The occurrences exposed weaknesses in the city’s handling of suspects as they move from police custody into the maze of court systems in the five boroughs.

With the new system, the authorities are using a hand-held scanning device that can check a prisoner’s identity in seconds when the suspect is presented in court, said Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman.

Officials began photographing the irises of suspects arrested for any reason on Monday at Manhattan Central Booking and expect to expand the program to all five boroughs by early December, Mr. Browne said.

The department has been working on the program for months, Mr. Browne said. But the effort caught many in the city’s legal circles by surprise as news of it began trickling out late last week. It is raising concerns among civil libertarians and privacy advocates, who say the authorities’ cataloging of the new data could put innocent people under permanent suspicion.

“It’s really distressing that the Police Department is once again undertaking a new regime of personal data collection without any public discourse,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, “and we don’t know the reason for it, whether this is a necessary program, whether it’s effective to address the concerns that it’s designed to address, and whether in this day and age it’s even cost-effective, not to mention whether there are any protections in place against the misuse of the data that’s collected.”

Steven Banks, attorney in chief of the Legal Aid Society, said his office learned about the program on Friday in a phone call from the mayor’s criminal justice coordinator.

“This is an unnecessary process,” Mr. Banks said. “It’s unauthorized by the statutes and of questionable legality at best. The statutes specifically authorize collecting fingerprints. There has been great legislative debate about the extent to which DNA evidence can be collected, and it is limited to certain types of cases. So the idea that the Police Department can forge ahead and use a totally new technology without any statutory authorization is certainly suspect.”

Mr. Browne said a legal review by the department had concluded that legislative authorization was not necessary.

“Our legal review determined that these are photographs and should be treated the same as mug shots, which are destroyed when arrests are sealed,” he said.

The technology uses high-resolution images to identify unique patterns in the iris, the colored part of the eye. It is considered less intrusive than retinal scanning, which looks at patterns in the blood vessels in the back of the eye and can reveal information about a person’s health, raising privacy concerns.

The department’s collection and use of electronic data have long been controversial. A new state law forced the department to halt electronic storage of the names and addresses of people stopped under the stop-and-frisk program but not charged or arrested.

The iris database has other implications as well, potentially providing the department with a tool in the fight against terrorism. The military has been using similar biometric technology in Iraq and Afghanistan to develop a database of potential insurgents, though Mr. Browne said that the Police Department’s data was not intended for that use and that there had been no coordination with the Defense Department or the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the program.

Other police agencies and correctional facilities across the country also use iris recognition, though it was unclear on Monday how widespread the practice is.

Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which focuses on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues, said that law and policy had developed over time on the collection of fingerprints, and more recently DNA, in the criminal justice system, and that iris scans fell somewhere in between.

“It’s a more accurate form of identification,” Mr. Rotenberg said of the scans, “but at the same time doesn’t raise the same privacy concerns that DNA data has.”

The program will cost the city $500,000 to implement and is being paid for through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Browne said.

In March, a suspect charged in a string of robberies, who had served time in prison for attempted murder, claimed to be another man, who was facing a charge of marijuanapossession, as they were about to be arraigned on Staten Island. The ruse worked and the suspect, Freddie Thompson, was released and remained free for 56 hours before he was recaptured. Another suspect, Michael Bautista, who was facing charges of assault and criminal mischief in the Bronx, escaped in the same manner in February and remains at large.

Mr. Browne said he had no statistics on how often suspects had escaped in this manner, but he said the problem was not widespread.

William K. Rashbaum and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.

U.S. – Canada To Share Refugees’ Biometric Info

Nov 25th, 2009 | By | Category: Evidence




c/o CanWest News Washington
WASHINGTON — Seeking to enhance its efforts to crack down on fraudulent refugee claims, the Harper government on Tuesday announced it has struck a deal to share fingerprint information on asylum seekers with the United States.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan made the announcement following a bilateral summit here with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Under the protocol, the U.S. will join a biometric data-sharing initiative Canada had already launched last summer with the United Kingdom and Australia.

“Biometrics continue to be a powerful tool to prevent terrorists and criminals from crossing our shared border and preventing identity theft and asylum fraud,” Napolitano said at a news conference with Van Loan.

Canada’s privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, had expressed a series of concerns about the biometric data sharing when the plan was first announced in August. Stoddart’s office questioned Ottawa about the need to collect fingerprints and sought assurances the personal information gathered would not be used for secondary purposes.

“While we are still reviewing their response, on the surface of it, it appears they have addressed most of our concerns,” said Anne-Marie Hayden, a spokesperson for the privacy commissioner.

“They have advised us that under the protocol, biometric information will only be used for immigration and nationality issues. They have also told us that biometric matching information will only be one of many elements considered when assessing a file.”

The privacy commissioner’s office is still awaiting a response, however, on how Citizenship and Immigration Canada “plans to address our concerns about how refugees, a very vulnerable population, will be notified about the collection and use of their biometric information,” Hayden said.

Napolitano said the U.S. will dispatch its chief privacy officer to Ottawa in early December for discussions with Canadian officials. “As we share information, we are committed to protecting privacy and civil rights,” she said.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has argued biometric data sharing on refugee claimants dramatically increases the government’s ability to identify foreign nationals who try to hide their past when seeking to enter Canada.
His office says the agreement allows countries to check each other’s fingerprint databases but doesn’t give them unfettered access to the information.

“Previous trials show that biometric information sharing works,” Kenney said in a statement Tuesday. “The data sharing helps uncover details about refugee claimants such as identity, nationality, criminality, travel and immigration history, all of which can prove relevant to the claim.”

When Canada, the U.K. and Australia initially signed the agreement last summer, they sought to allay privacy concerns by agreeing no central database of fingerprints would be created.

The information-sharing pact is part of a broader government initiative to introduce biometrics into Canada’s immigration and refugee screening system — a plan that continues to raise red flags for privacy advocates.

“We have made them aware of our concerns with respect to what seems to be a general trend toward an increased collection of biometric information,” Hayden said.

BT chief security-technology officer Bruce Schneier slams US border biometrics

Jul 23rd, 2009 | By | Category: Evidence, News, Opinions

By Tom Espiner

Posted on ZDNet News

Security expert and BT chief security-technology officer Bruce Schneier has attacked the US-Visit border-biometrics program, saying it has had “zero benefit” in terms of security.

Speaking to ZDNet UK last week, Schneier said that there was little evidence that the US-Visit program, which takes fingerprints and retinal scans from all visitors to the United States, had made any impact on reducing the threat from criminals and terrorists.

“If the Department of Homeland Security had apprehended any terrorists [through US-Visit], they would have kicked up a huge press stink,” said Schneier. “There has been zero benefit from the program.”

A long-time critic of the US-Visit program, Schneier first questioned the cost-effectiveness of the scheme in 2006. At the time, just under 1,000 people had been apprehended for criminal or immigration violations, yet the program had cost $15 billion (£9.4bn) up to that point.

“Take that $15 billion number,” wrote Schneier in a 2006 blog post. “One thousand bad guys, most of them not very bad, caught through US-Visit. That’s $15 million per bad guy caught. Surely there’s a more cost-effective way to catch bad guys?”

However, Robert Jamison, undersecretary at the US Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, which oversees US-Visit, told ZDNet UK at the RSA Conference Europe 2008 on Wednesday that the border-biometrics program had been effective.

“There have been several instances of someone applying for entry under one name, being denied, applying under another name, and again being denied [due to biometrics records],” said Jamison. “In a few cases, criminal activity and, in some cases, terrorist activity have been prevented.”

Jamison declined to say exactly how many terrorists had been caught as a direct result of the program, saying the information was “classified”. However, Department of Homeland Security figures show that more than 2,400 immigration “violators” and criminals have been identified since the inception of the program in January 2004.

In February, US-Visit was claimed to have helped identify two terrorist suspects, now being held in Iraq, from fingerprints lifted from an improvised explosive device.