Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Criminal investigation"

    1 publication with a total of 6 open recommendations including 6 priority recommendations
    Director: Diana Maurer
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    6 open recommendations
    including 6 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve transparency and better ensure that face recognition capabilities are being used in accordance with privacy protection laws and policy requirements, the Attorney General should assess the PIA development process to determine why PIAs were not published prior to using or updating face recognition capabilities, and implement corrective actions to ensure the timely development, updating, and publishing of PIAs before using or making changes to a system.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOJ officials did not concur with this recommendation, and stated that the FBI has established practices that protect privacy and civil liberties beyond the requirements of the law. DOJ officials stated that it will internally evaluate the PIA process as part of the Department's overall commitment to improving its processes, not in response to our recommendation. In March 2017, we followed up with DOJ to obtain its current position on our recommendation. DOJ continues to believe that its approach in designing the NGI system was sufficient to meet legal privacy requirements and that our recommendation represents a "checkbox approach" to privacy. We disagree with DOJ's characterization of our recommendation. We continue to believe that the timely development and publishing of future PIAs would increase transparency of the department's systems. We recognize the steps the agency took to consider privacy protection during the development of the NGI system. We also stand by our position that notifying the public of these actions is important and provides the public with greater assurance that DOJ components are evaluating risks to privacy when implementing systems. As a result, the recommendation remains open and unimplemented.
    Recommendation: To improve transparency and better ensure that face recognition capabilities are being used in accordance with privacy protection laws and policy requirements, the Attorney General should assess the SORN development process to determine why a SORN was not published that addressed the collection and maintenance of photos accessed and used through NGI for the FBI's face recognition capabilities prior to using NGI-IPS, and implement corrective actions to ensure SORNs are published before systems become operational.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOJ agreed, in part, with our recommendation and submitted the SORN for publication to the Federal Register on April 21, 2016, and it was published on May 5, 2016. DOJ did not agree that the publication of a SORN is required by law. We disagree with DOJ's interpretation regarding the legal requirements of a SORN. The Privacy Act of 1974 requires that when agencies establish or make changes to a system of records, they must notify the public through a SORN published in the Federal Register. DOJ's comments on our draft report acknowledge that the automated nature of face recognition technology and the sheer number of photos now available for searching raise important privacy and civil liberties considerations. DOJ officials also stated that the FBI's face recognition capabilities do not represent new collection, use, or sharing of personal information. We disagree. We believe that the ability to perform automated searches of millions of photos is fundamentally different in nature and scope than manual review of individual photos, and the potential impact on privacy is equally fundamentally different. By assessing the SORN development process and taking corrective actions to ensure timely development of future SORNs, the public would have a better understanding of how personal information is being used and protected by DOJ components. As a result, the recommendation remains open and unimplemented.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that face recognition capabilities are being used in accordance with privacy protection laws and policy requirements, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should conduct audits to determine the extent to which users of NGI-IPS and biometric images specialists in FACE Services are conducting face image searches in accordance with Criminal Justice Information Services Division policy requirements.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In March 2017, DOJ provided us with the audit plan the CJIS Audit Unit developed in June 2016 for NGI-IPS users. In addition, DOJ reported that the CJIS Audit Unit began assessing NGI-IPS requirements at participating states in conjunction with its triennial National Identity Services audit and that, as of February 2017, the unit had conducted NGI-IPS audits of four states. Further, DOJ officials said CJIS developed an audit plan of the FACE Services Unit to coincide with the existing triennial FBI internal audit for 2018. However, DOJ did not provide the audit plan for the FACE Services Unit. DOJ officials said the methodology would be the same as the audit plan for NGI-IPS, but that methodology does not describe oversight on use of information obtained from external systems accessed by FACE Services employees. Therefore, we believe DOJ is making progress towards meeting the recommendation, but has not fully implemented our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that face recognition systems are sufficiently accurate, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should conduct tests of NGI-IPS to verify that the system is sufficiently accurate for all allowable candidate list sizes, and ensure that the detection and false positive rate used in the tests are identified.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In comments on our draft report in 2016, and reiterated during recommendation follow-up, as of March 2017, DOJ did not concur with this recommendation. DOJ officials stated that the FBI has performed accuracy testing to validate that the system meets the requirements for the detection rate, which fully satisfies requirements for the investigative lead service provided by NGI-IPS. We disagree with DOJ. A key focus of our recommendation is the need to ensure that NGI-IPS is sufficiently accurate for all allowable candidate list sizes. Although the FBI has tested the detection rate for a candidate list of 50 photos, NGI-IPS users are able to request smaller candidate lists (between 2 and 50 photos). FBI officials stated that they do not know, and have not tested, the detection rate for other candidate list sizes. According to these officials, a smaller candidate list would likely lower the detection rate because a smaller candidate list may not contain a likely match that would be present in a larger candidate list. However, according to the FBI Information Technology Life Cycle Management Directive, testing needs to confirm the system meets all user requirements. Because the accuracy of NGI-IPS's face recognition searches when returning fewer than 50 photos in a candidate list is unknown, the FBI is limited in understanding whether the results are accurate enough to meet NGI-IPS users' needs. DOJ officials also stated that searches of NGI-IPS produce a gallery of likely candidates to be used as investigative leads, not for positive identification. As a result, according to DOJ officials, NGI-IPS cannot produce false positives and there is no false positive rate for the system. We disagree with DOJ. The detection rate and the false positive rate are both necessary to assess the accuracy of a face recognition system. Generally, face recognition systems can be configured to allow for a greater or lesser number of matches. A greater number of matches would generally increase the detection rate, but would also increase the false positive rate. Similarly, a lesser number of matches would decrease the false positive rate, but would also decrease the detection rate. Reporting a detection rate of 86 percent without reporting the accompanying false positive rate presents an incomplete view of the system's accuracy. As a result, the recommendation remains open and unimplemented.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that face recognition systems are sufficiently accurate, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should conduct an operational review of NGI-IPS at least annually that includes an assessment of the accuracy of face recognition searches to determine if it is meeting federal, state, and local law enforcement needs and take actions, as necessary, to improve the system.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 2017, FBI officials stated they implemented the recommendation by submitting a paper to solicit feedback from users through the Fall 2016 Advisory Policy Board Process. Specifically, officials said the paper requested feedback on whether the face recognition searches of the NGI-IPS are meeting their needs, and input regarding search accuracy. According to FBI officials, no users expressed concern with any aspect of the NGI-IPS meeting their needs, including accuracy. Although FBI's action of providing working groups with a paper presenting GAO's recommendation is a step, the FBI's actions do not fully meet the recommendation. The FBI's paper was presented as informational, and did not result in any formal responses from users. We disagree with the FBI's conclusion that receiving no responses on the informational paper fulfills the operational review recommendation, which includes determining that NGI-IPS is meeting user's needs. As such, we continue to recommend the FBI conduct an operational review of NGI-IPS at least annually.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that face recognition systems are sufficiently accurate, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation should take steps to determine whether each external face recognition system used by FACE Services is sufficiently accurate for the FBI's use and whether results from those systems should be used to support FBI investigations.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In comments on our draft report in 2016, and reiterated during recommendation follow-up in 2017, DOJ officials did not concur with this recommendation and had no plans to implement it. DOJ officials stated that the FBI has no authority to set or enforce accuracy standards of face recognition technology operated by external agencies. In addition, DOJ officials stated that the FBI has implemented multiple layers of manual review that mitigate risks associated with the use of automated face recognition technology. Further, DOJ officials stated there is value in searching all available external databases, regardless of their level of accuracy. We disagree with the DOJ position. We continue to believe that the FBI should assess the quality of the data it is using from state and federal partners. We acknowledge that the FBI cannot and should not set accuracy standards for the face recognition systems used by external partners. We also do not dispute that the use of external face recognition systems by the FACE Services Unit could add value to FBI investigations. However, we disagree with FBI's assertion that no assessment of the quality of the data from state and federal partners is necessary. We also disagree with the DOJ assertion that manual review of automated search results is sufficient. Even with a manual review process, the FBI could miss investigative leads if a partner does not have a sufficiently accurate system. By relying on its external partners' face recognition systems, the FBI is using these systems as a component of its routine operations and is therefore responsible for ensuring the systems will help meet FBI's mission, goals and objectives. The recommendation remains open and unimplemented.