N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/nsa-collecting-millions-of-faces-from-web-images.htmlAlso see:What the NSA can (and can’t) mine from intercepted photos
The National Security Agency has collected a vast number of digital photos from Internet traffic and the internal networks of foreign governments in order to identify and track persons of interest, according to a report by The New York Times. The images, reportedly extracted from Internet traffic such as e-mail messages and from video conferencing streams, have been used as part of the NSA’s “Identity Intelligence” (I2) program to “track, exploit, and identify targets of interest,” according to a 2011 NSA presentation slide.According to the documents cited by the Times, the agency began performing facial recognition searches using captured images in 2010, matching photos in Pinwale (the NSA’s longterm store of captured content from external sources) and a terrorist watch list database called Tide. By 2011, the NSA was capturing millions of images daily — and of those, about 55,000 images are “facial recognition quality.” And the NSA expanded its collection and cross-referencing of facial images, pulling from CIA and State Department data from the border crossing stations of a number of countries, as well as airline passenger data and foreign national identity card databases. According to the NSA documents, in 2011 the agency was trying to gain access to the national identity card databases of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran.

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