Written and audio messages aren’t the only forms of communication the government appears to be gobbling up.
The National Security Agency is collecting “huge numbers” of photos from emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other forms of communication for facial recognition purposes, according to classified documents obtained by The New York Times.
Of the “millions” of images the NSA collects each day, roughly 55,000 are of the quality needed for facial recognition purposes, according to the Times. Facial recognition data is deemed just as important to the agency as the information gleaned from written and oral communications, according to the documents, which were obtained and then leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The NSA facial recognition efforts don’t appear to target U.S. citizens, although many will find that hard to believe. According to the Times:
Because the agency considers images a form of communications content, the N.S.A. would be required to get court approval for imagery of Americans collected through its surveillance programs, just as it must to read their emails or eavesdrop on their phone conversations, according to an N.S.A. spokeswoman. Cross-border communications in which an American might be emailing or texting an image to someone targeted by the agency overseas could be excepted.
The State Department along with local law enforcement agencies across the country already use driver’s license photos and social networks like Facebook for facial imagery, according to the Times. The NSA declined to comment to the Times on whether it, too, was taking images from Facebook.
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SOURCE: Kurt Wagner