CfA Opposes FBI Proposal to Exempt Biometrics Database from Privacy Act


Contact: Daniel Stevens,, 202.780.5750

On Wednesday, Campaign for Accountability joined a coalition of 18 organizations, led by, in opposing the FBI’s proposal to exempt its biometrics database – the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system – from nearly all key provisions of the Privacy Act. The coalition believes that the FBI’s system needs stronger privacy and transparency protections than the FBI’s current proposal incorporates.

Read the letter here.

The FBI, on May 5, 2016, published basic privacy notices about the NGI database, after many years of delay. The same day, the FBI asked for exemptions to key public protections of the Privacy Act, specifically provisions that allow people to: (1) find out if they are in the NGI database; (2) request the FBI promptly fix errors and inaccurate information in their files; and (3) obtain information (so long as it would not impede law enforcement) about whether their information is being shared with other parts of the government.

The coalition believes the FBI’s proposal is problematic for a number of reasons.  For example, under the current proposal, the FBI could violate the Privacy Act’s rule generally prohibiting the government from establishing databases on the political activities of private citizens – and private citizens could be denied redress for such violations.  Furthermore, the lack of proper accountability over the FBI’s use of facial recognition technology, as detailed by recent GAO reports, further supports the necessity of strong privacy and transparency measures for the NGI system.

CfA executive director, Anne Weismann, said, “The public has a right to the protections and redress afforded by the Privacy Act.  The FBI biometrics database system should adhere to the spirit and letter of the legislation honoring the privacy of all Americans.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.