ACLU sues DOJ, FBI over facial recognition secrecy

The rights organization wants to know who has access to your biometric data.

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Rae Hodge was a senior editor at CNET. She led CNET's coverage of privacy and cybersecurity tools from July 2019 to January 2023. As a data-driven investigative journalist on the software and services team, she reviewed VPNs, password managers, antivirus software, anti-surveillance methods and ethics in tech. Prior to joining CNET in 2019, Rae spent nearly a decade covering politics and protests for the AP, NPR, the BBC and other local and international outlets.
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A federal lawsuit is seeking answers about how the FBI uses facial recognition data.

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The American Civil Liberties Union and its Massachusetts branch filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI on Thursday. The lawsuit aims to increase transparency around the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies, said the ACLU. 

"The public has a right to know when, where, and how law enforcement agencies are using face recognition technology, and what safeguards, if any, are in place to protect our rights," said the Massachusetts ACLU's Kade Crockford in a release. Crockford added that the government's use of surveillance tech threatens to "fundamentally alter our free society."

The suit follows a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU in January, which sought information related to the agencies' use of facial and biometric surveillance technology. The request yielded no records, the ACLU said, but sought information including whether any data privacy safeguards existed in current FBI policy and which federal databases store the data. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Neither the FBI nor DEA immediately responded to CNET's requests for comment. 

The DOJ declined to comment. 

Read more: FBI, TSA use of facial recognition tech needs cleaning up, say lawmakers

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