FBI plans to create a database of criminals' faces are well under way.
The $1billion scheme will help officials fight crime by matching surveillance photographs with images of known offenders.
But privacy advocates have decried the wide-ranging project as 'a national photographic database' which will eventually encompass the innocent as well as criminals.
The Next Generation Identification program has been in the pipeline for several years and is now coming to fruition, according to the New Scientist.
The plan involves using several hi-tech identification measures such as DNA analysis, voice recognition and iris scans to help fight crimes.
But the centerpiece of the project is facial recognition, a technological breakthrough which the FBI says will be invaluable in solving and preventing crime in the future.
The software has two primary uses - one is to allow officials to pick out an individual from a crowd to facilitate surveillance.
The other new step is the ability to take a photograph and compare it against a database of faces which would in theory contain all former criminals, like fingerprint databases do today.
Facial recognition software is already used by social networking sites such as Facebook to help users 'tag' their friends in photographs, and it is believed to have an accuracy rate of over 90 per cent.
However, some campaigners are concerned that by using such sites and other sources, the government could build a photographic database of nearly every American, casting suspicion on those who have done nothing wrong.
FBI official Jerome Pender told a Senate hearing earlier this year that until now the project has only involved those previously convicted of a crime.
But the bureau has not yet confirmed that it does not plan to include photographs of the general public in the program after it is fully operational in 2014.
The FBI has previously worked with bodies which issue drivers' licenses, raising the specter of all holders of state identification being entered into the database.
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