FBI, Pentagon Researched Facial Recognition Tech To Handle ‘Millions Of Subjects,’ Documents Say
Peter Cade/Getty Images
Peter Cade/Getty Images

The FBI and Pentagon worked closely with experts on facial recognition technology that could be used to identify people on footage captured from street cameras or drones.

New information about the government’s research was revealed in a trove of thousands of documents released as part of an open records lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the FBI, according to The Washington Post. The facial recognition technology sought would significantly boost the government’s surveillance capabilities.

The program was underwritten by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), part of the U.S. Intelligence Community. An IARPA program manager described the goal of the project in 2019 as to “dramatically improve” U.S. facial recognition tools with “scaling to support millions of subjects.”

The FBI is “committed to responsible use of facial recognition technology ensuring it appropriately respects individuals’ privacy and civil liberties,” the bureau told the Post in a statement. The Department of Defense did not immediately return The Daily Wire’s request for comment.

The research into facial recognition technology has alarmed some on Capitol Hill. Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced legislation on Tuesday that would prohibit the government from using facial recognition technology and other biotech tools, according to Nextgov.

“The year is 2023, but we are living through 1984. The continued proliferation of surveillance tools like facial recognition technologies in our society is deeply disturbing,” Markey said in a statement. “Biometric data collection poses serious risks of privacy invasion and discrimination, and Americans know they should not have to forgo personal privacy for safety. As we work to make our country more equitable, we cannot ignore the technologies that stand in the way of progress and perpetuate injustice.”

Concerns over government use of facial recognition technology are bipartisan. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said in 2021 that law enforcement could be risking civil rights violations by utilizing the technology.

“There are serious first amendment, fourth amendment concerns about the use of FRT by law enforcement,” Jordan said.


The ACLU sued the FBI over the research into facial recognition technology in 2019.

“These technologies have the potential to enable undetectable, persistent, and suspicionless surveillance on an unprecedented scale,” ACLU attorneys wrote at the time. “Such surveillance would permit the government to pervasively track people’s movements and associations in ways that threaten core constitutional values.”

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