EFF: FBI & NIST's tattoo recognition program exploited prisoners, profiled based on religion, gave sensitive info to private contractors

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I’ve a lovely tattoo on my ass that they can kiss inspect.


If the caption is supposed to match the photo, the real implication is much more distressing: one in five adults in the US is a Christmas tree.


Sadly, this makes perfect sense. This reads to me as a data management problem, not a “human research” problem. I can totally believe that a bureaucrat or engineer could read through this act and still not be clear that what the collection of this data required falls under the policy. It’s still an institutional failure, as being aware of these requirements is part of the job NIST is supposed to be doing, and good on EFF for suing to uphold the letter of the law, but I can’t muster moral outrage when bog-standard incompetence explains everything neatly.

In fact, looking over the Common Rule text that the EFF links to, it looks like no such oversight would be required if they had limited themselves to existing photos of prisoners, say, collected by law enforcement or prison officials as part of routine processing. It also looks like approval would be necessary but possibly fast-tracked if the newly-collected photos didn’t have any identifier that tied them to an individual – for example, if the took a photo and didn’t write down the user’s name, though such collection would make the “same tattoo over time” test impossible to conduct at this stage.

I also can’t really see the hand of Big Brother in this, since it’s basically a program to use technology to increase the efficiency of what they were already doing. In particular, the uproar over religious/political tattoos and linking individuals through common tattoos seems strange, as the heraldry of various underworld tattoos is well-known. For example, if you see a guy with MS-13 on his forehead, you don’t have to wonder too hard about his associations with Mara Salvatrucha.

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It’s Christmas - it just seems right to cheer up the ghillie suit a bit…


Back in the 80s the cops used to ask to take pictures with us. It got them our height, tats, etc. I always said no, but our punk rock thing put us on every cops radar, so they always tried.


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