Amazon is Forming an Unholy Alliance with the DHS

Aaron Boyd of Nextgov reported that the Homeland Security Department is in the middle of transferring its central biometric database to the Amazon Web Services GovCloud.

The central biometric database is generally “used to store, manage and disseminate biometric data on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.”

Due to numerous advancements in biometric technologies such as iris and facial scans and computing technology, the DHS has opted to update its dated Automated Biometric Identification System, known as IDENT, which was originally set up in 1994. In 2015, the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) started to work on Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART), which will have new updates and move the whole system into the cloud.

OBIM’s transition from IDENT to HART started in 2020, which included the finalization of a privacy impact assessment for the first phase. Boyd noted that “migrating existing data and functionality to the cloud.”  The impact statement was completed and signed in February and then published in May “to align with the completion of other system requirements,” a DHS spokesperson informed Nextgov.

The HART system is being advanced in four phases, or “increments.” Increment 1 is centered on infrastructure development and guaranteeing that the data and applications used in IDENT is able to transition smoothly into the cloud.

“HART Increment 1 implements a new data architecture, which includes conceptual, logical, and physical data models, a data management plan, and physical storage of records where each associated record may have multiple associated biometric modality images,” the document stated. This work is being carried out through a $95 million contract with Northrop Grumman.

Once the cloud migration is realized, HART will officially become the principal record for national security biometric data. The aforementioned privacy impact assessment stated the program was on pace to take over by the conclusion of the 2020 fiscal year.

Boyd highlighted how the HART system is expected to function:

By the completion of Increment 1, the new HART system is expected to function the same as the current IDENT system, with the same capabilities, including the ability to match biometric indicators like face, iris and fingerprints to other forms of identity, like Social Security numbers and Alien Numbers. However, with the new cloud-based architecture, the system will be “designed for scalability to address projected growth in identity and image data volumes and to accommodate any needs associated with larger files,” the impact assessment states.

The program office has plans of including new capabilities in Increment 2, which includes “increased interoperability with agency partners and improved reporting features.”

“Increments 3 and 4 will include a web portal and user interface capability, support for additional modalities, and improved reporting tools,” in addition to their own privacy impact assessments, the document noted.

Boyd also highlighted how “OBIM has also issued a request for information for services in Increments 3 and 4, though the timeline and full procurement strategy are still being fleshed out.”

There’s a clear alliance being formed between Big Tech and the government.

Privacy advocates will have to remain vigilant regarding the government’s efforts to cooperate with tech companies who have no desire to protect privacy. A corporate dystopia is slowly forming and it must be stopped if we want to preserve our freedoms in the 21st century.