The Facial Analysis, Comparison, and Evaluation (FACE) Services Unit of the Biometric Services Section, Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division provides investigative lead support to FBI field offices, operational divisions, and legal attachés by comparing the facial images of persons associated with open assessments and investigations against facial images available in state and federal face recognition systems. In limited instances, the FACE Services Unit provides face recognition support for closed FBI cases (e.g., missing and wanted persons) and may offer face recognition support to federal partners.
In its support of FBI agents and analysts, the FACE Services Unit accepts unclassified photographs of subjects of, and persons relevant to, open FBI assessments and investigations. These photographs are called "probe photos." The FACE Services Unit only accepts probe photos that have been collected pursuant to applicable legal authorities as part of an authorized FBI investigation, and in a future expansion of the program, other federal agency investigations. Upon receipt of a probe photo, the FACE Services Unit uses face recognition software to compare the probe photo against photos contained within government systems, such as FBI databases (e.g., FBI's Next Generation Identification-Interstate Photo System), other federal databases and state photo repositories.
After comparison and evaluation, which includes both automated face recognition software and manual review by a trained biometric images specialist, the FACE Services Unit may identify photos that are likely matches to the probe photo. These photos are called "candidate photos" because they serve only as investigative leads. Unlike fingerprints, face recognition results do not constitute positive identification of an individual. For probe photos that are searched against state databases, the state agency generally performs the initial comparison and returns candidates to the FACE Services Unit. If the FACE Services Unit identifies or receives candidate photos based on the searching of the federal and state databases, it will perform additional evaluation in order to determine the most likely candidate(s) for return to the FBI case agent or analyst.
Additional evaluation includes both face recognition review and text-based searches of non-biometric databases to assist with identification of the candidates. Textual data that accompanies probe photos are searched against other FBI and federal databases, such as the FBI National Data Exchange (N-DEx) and DOJ's Joint Automated Booking System (JABS). In many instances, no candidates are returned. If a likely candidate is found in one of these systems, the FACE Services Unit generally confirms with the record owner that the record is valid and active and requests permission to disseminate the information.
In order to access other agencies' systems for face recognition purposes, the FACE Services Unit enters into Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with each agency. These MOUs are implemented with significant information security requirements and privacy obligations. All parties must use secure electronic means to transmit the photos and any associated personally identifiable information (PII). The FBI stores photo images and any associated PII of the most-likely candidate(s) to the probe photo in the FBI case management system. The FBI immediately destroys all other photos and associated information. The other party to the MOU ensures that only authorized personnel receive and process the photos sent by the FBI. These agencies are prohibited from the further sharing and/or dissemination of any information associated with the FBI photos unless required by law. After the face recognition search has been completed, these agencies are required to destroy all probe photo images, and any associated data submitted from the FACE Services Unit.