We're not talking about tramp stamps here. In an attempt to better identify crooks and terrorists, the FBI will be teaming up with police and tattoo vendors to help decipher tattoos prominently used by these criminal groups.
Last week, the FBI issued a request for information on existing databases “containing tattoo/symbol images, their possible meanings, gang affiliations, terrorist groups or other criminal organizations.” Plans are reportedly already underway at the bureau and Homeland
Security Department to add the symbols to the iris and facial recognition
services of their respective fingerprint databases. The bureau claims it is interested in learning how body art databases
draw on the knowledge of gang experts and cryptanalysts as well as how
they document “possible meanings and gang affiliations” observed by
However, immigrant communities are claiming that the FBI and DHS are actually misusing the technology as a means to deport innocent people. On July 11, the Wall Street Journal reported that the government denied green cards to spouses of permanent U.S. residents, some with no arrest records, because their tattoos resembled gang symbols.
Additionally, the reliability of such tracking systems aren't exactly 100% foolproof. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame revealed that iris patterns can alter with age and the accuracy of sensors used to capture iris images degrades over time. Such setbacks can lead to false incarcerations, and raises doubt about the need to use these physical traits in order to confirm identities.