According to watchdog the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the FBI has access to over 640 million face images — including passports, mugshots and driver’s licenses — that are searchable using facial recognition technology.

The number, which is reportedly accurate as of April 2019, represents the FBI's database of mugshots and access to state driver's license and federal passport databases, according to prepared testimony from the GAO that was revealed during a hearing before the House Oversight Committee on government use of facial recognition technology, held on June 4.

During the congressional hearing, Kimberly Del Greco, a deputy assistant director at the FBI, explained that the bureau has strict guidelines for using the technology and that the technology is only used during active FBI investigations or assessments ahead of formal investigations. Additionally, Del Greco described the technology as a tool that when used correctly can enhance law enforcement capabilities and improve public safety.

Yet, dozens of civil liberties advocates call for a temporary moratorium on the technology.

"Lawmakers must put the brakes on law enforcement use of this technology until Congress decides what, if any, use cases are permissible," said Neema Singh Guliani, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Similarly, politicians are concerned over government use of facial recognition in the face of reported inaccuracies and allegations that the technology violates civil liberties.

"We learned that over 20 states, 20 states, have given their bureau of motor vehicles, department of motor vehicles, the database — driver's license database, they've just given access to that to the FBI," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R - Ohio). "No individual signed off on that when they renewed their driver's license, got their driver's licenses. They didn't sign any waiver saying, 'Oh it's OK to turn my information, my photo, over to the FBI.' No elected officials voted for that to happen."

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com