Privacy SOS

FBI’s “rap-back” program could be a job killer

That the government is obsessed with databases and data collection is not news. The FBI plans for its newest mega-database, Next Generation Identification, to be the largest collection of personal biometric information in the world. It will include information collected from everyday arrests, immigration and customs enforcement, the State Department, FBI and other special investigations, public sources (including photos and video from surveillance), possibly the military, and now, wherever local agencies and companies participate, from employers

The NGI aims to move "beyond fingerprints" into the Brave New World of full spectrum biometrics. The database will include the following information on tens, possibly hundreds of millions of people:

  • electronic fingerprints
  • palm prints
  • photos (with face recognition technology)
  • iris scans
  • tattoos, scars and markings
  • voice
  • gait
  • names, associations, history of residence, employment, arrests, etc.
'Rap back': always watching

The FBI has run criminal background checks for state and local agencies, as well as employers, for some time now. But with NGI, the agency has a new plan: the "rap back" scheme. It will be voluntary — but the decision to participate will reside with the employer, not the employee. In other words, if your boss wants to sign up, tough luck.

Here's how it will work: the boss at a company or organization signs an agreement with the FBI to implement the "rap back" program. You'd like to work there, and submit to a background check to do so. Your fingerprints are taken before you get your job, a routine part of the criminal background check, your almost-boss tells you. The fingerprints are then sent to the FBI, whereupon the agency makes a determination about your criminal history, and informs your almost-boss about whether or not you are likely to be a good hire.

That was all old news. Here's the kicker: under the new plan, the FBI will retain your fingerprints, even if you've never committed a crime, so that if you are arrested or get into any trouble, the agency can inform your boss of your arrest. Behind your back.

Nice jobs program, huh? Read more about NGI.

UPDATE: EPIC has posted FBI documents about the rap-back program.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.