Iris Scanning Expands from US–Mexico Border to Cities Around the US

Iris scanning technology has been rolled out by every sheriff along the US Mexico border over the last two years. Every one of the 31 counties along the nearly 2000 mile border are receiving a free trial of the technology- the Inmate Recognition Identification System or IRIS software that photographs and captures the details of an individual’s eyes, and compares it to a massive database.

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The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is now the first local law enforcement in Ohio to implement “biometric iris technology” to identify offenders, but the technology is being picked up by agencies around the country.

Experts have raised concerns about local law enforcement sharing information with federal immigration agencies such as ICE. For years now local law enforcement agencies have been gathering Iris scans of millions of people who are arrested across the country. ICE and other federal authorities currently have access to many of these law enforcement databases. The FBI has information-sharing agreements with other agencies, US Border Patrol, the Pentagon, and local law enforcement departments.

The San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, as part of a nationwide iris-scanning project, has been collecting iris data from more than a million people. San Bernardino is part of a larger program organized by the FBI, that began as a simple test of available technology, but has quietly grown into something far more ambitious.

While California has been most aggressive about collecting scans, agencies in Texas and Missouri can also add to and search the database. The result amounts to a new national biometric database. The beginnings of the program date back to 2013, when the FBI launched an iris pilot program.

 

 

Photos from the top: “Concept with eyes” by Chris Urbanowicz is licensed under CC BY 2.0 and “Iris scan” by The U.S. Army is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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