Mobile Biometric App Helps FBI Assist Law Enforcement Partners
March 30, 2021
- You’re investigating a body found in a remote area. How do you identify the unknown person?
- You’ve just apprehended an unknown man suspected of human trafficking. He refuses to give his name or other identifying information.
- You’re investigating a terrorist attack in a large urban area. How do you identify the deceased bomber and her victims?
The solution: The FBI’s Mobile Biometric Application (MBA), launched in 2016.
This highly accurate and efficient app allows users to collect biometric data—including fingerprints, irises, and facial images—and to capture the barcode on DNA collection devices. The MBA, available on FBI-issued smartphones, searches millions of records in databases maintained by the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security, then returns a response within minutes. FBI special agents and task force members use the MBA for criminal bookings, security vetting, and identification, in accordance with the law and privacy regulations. While the app itself is only available to FBI personnel, FBI agents use the app to support law enforcement partners' investigations.
Two recent examples show how FBI personnel use these tools to help law enforcement partners.
Identifying a Murder Victim
In June 2020, the homicide unit of a Georgia police department contacted an FBI special agent in Atlanta. An unidentified murder victim had been found that morning. The police checked the victim’s fingerprints but did not get any matches through the Georgia Automated Fingerprint Identification System or locally collected prints.
The special agent met detectives at the morgue, used the MBA to fingerprint the victim, and received a hit identifying the victim. The victim had no criminal history, but he had been fingerprinted in 2019 by the National Indian Gaming Commission. The investigators charged four suspects in the murders.
Identifying Fire Victims
Tribal police officers from a reservation in Arizona responded to a fire in August 2020 and found two bodies. The victims appeared to have been murdered before the fire started. Investigators requested FBI assistance.
An FBI Phoenix special agent used the MBA to fingerprint both victims. Within minutes, he received a response and confirmed their identities. Tribal police and Bureau of Indian Affairs officers used the information to investigate the case.