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When it comes to acronyms, FACE certainly merits public's attention

Some North Carolinians and other Americans across the country might have last focused upon Al Franken when he was a droll and sarcastic principal of Saturday Night Live decades ago.

If, back then, the comedian would have voiced a concern regarding "the risk of innocent Americans being inadvertently swept up in criminal investigations," many people might have waited a few seconds for a punch line.

Well, there is none, with the stated concern now being levied by U.S. Sen. Al Franken (Minnesota), who has weighed in on numerous occasions during his political tenure to question government actions and to demand better accountability in investigatory and security-related matters that affect the general public.

What is currently on Franken's mind is FACE. Spelled out, that equates to Facial Analysis, Comparison and Evaluation. Select FBI agents know much about FACE, given that they are members of an internal unit that, well, analyzes, compares and evaluates images of individuals that can lead to criminal investigations.

Unsurprisingly, FACE is anything but a writ-small program. A Government Accountability Office probe into the unit that followed a request to investigate by Franken reveals that the FBI has ready access to well more than 400 million facial images that it can instantly access through multiple databases. As noted in a recent CNN article on the FBI's facial recognition program, "Outside law enforcement agencies can also request searches" through FACE.

Is the program at all concerning?

The GAO seems to think so, having criticized the FBI for its failure to provide the public with sufficient information regarding the privacy implications linked with FACE, as well as with its accuracy.

We have tagged the instant post as a larceny/theft entry, but it is certainly easy enough to see that FACE could directly affect any American alleged to be involved in any type of criminal activity, ranging from drunk driving to a sex crime or drug offense.

The U.S. Department of Justice states that, although a photo match is not in itself enough to warrant further law enforcement action, it can be used as an "investigatory lead."

What's the difference? Arguably, isn't that DOJ depiction a clear engagement in semantics? Isn't following through on a lead intrinsically law enforcement action?

We will keep readers duly informed of material developments that might publicly surface regarding this expansive government initiative.

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Law Office of Christopher A. Connelly
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