tatto tracking and your righs - hand showing barcode tattoo on wrist


Early this month, an investigation by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) uncovered an FBI project that aims to compile a database of tattoos to help identify criminals, or to trace them before they become dangerous by associating people with similar tattoos.This practice is dangerous in more than one way.

While, yes, a person’s tattoos can say a lot about who they are, what they believe, past history, gang affiliation, etc., it is not true that everyone with a particular tattoo associates that symbol in the same way. What is even more distressing about such associations is the assumptions that are made regarding particular symbols. For example, the weariness of the American public and law enforcement surrounding certain faiths can lead to assumptions that have no validity to the majority of its people.

Basically, this tattoo recognition method of identifying and analyzing people infringes on your freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of expression, as you are not truly free if your tattoos may be incriminating.

When did this project begin?

The EFF reports that the National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST) began working on tattoo recognition technology for the FBI in 2014. The technology’s algorithm is designed to not only track and identify people by their tattoos, but to actually sort, compare and infer information based on people with similar tattoos.

There have since been ethical questions brought up to NIST regarding how they are acquiring information about people and their tattoos, as not all of their practices have been in line with protocol. Most of the information being gathered at the moment involves current or past inmates and has not stemmed out to laypeople, as far as has been reported.

How is it flawed?

In theory, being able to identify people by something as unique and individual as a tattoo seems smart. However, with 20% of our population sporting ink art now and a fear our government inching toward the “big brother” boundary, it is important to question if your rights are being protected and if there are other, more concrete ways, to trace criminals.

Facial recognition is fairly accurate, and the FBI has thorough records of criminal and violent history. Using actual evidence of violence to keep track of criminals seems like a more effective and efficient way of controlling crime. Making assumptions about people based on their tattoos can end up harming innocent people and their privacy. We all know what happens when you assume…

How does this affect me?

At the moment, the technology has not been implemented in the same way facial recognition has, so there is nothing to rage about yet. However, knowing your rights and staying abreast of this information is important in securing your privacy and ensuring the government keeps its role in protecting, rather than incriminating.

What do you think about tattoo tracking? Share this post with your friends and let us know how you think it affects your rights and privacy.

If you are currently fighting a criminal case and are seeking legal advice, call our offices today to speak with one of our attorneys about how we can help you.

The Law Offices of Alisha A. Wood
San Diego, California
(619) 867-0755

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