Did You Know... 26 States Have Your DMV Photo Entered Into A Facial Technology Database?

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 8:46pm.

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London, Ohio - Without informing the public and without first reviewing security rules for the system, Ohio law enforcement officers started using facial recognition technology more than two months ago, scanning databases of driver's license photos and police mug shots to identify crime suspects, The Enquirer has learned.

After they launched the system, officials in Attorney General Mike DeWine's office weighed what new security protocols to establish for the state's law enforcement database and wondered when they'd be ready to tell the public about it.

In hundreds of pages of e-mails and memos reviewed by The Enquirer, officials also disagreed about whether the system was in beta testing or in a full launch and promised to make changes to the website that would be used to upload license photos, which was vulnerable to hackers.

"As a society, do we want to have total surveillance? Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals wherever they are ... without any immediate probable cause?" Georgetown law professor Laura Donohue said to the Post.

"A police state is exactly what this turns into if everybody who drives has to lodge their information with the police."

Since June, police officers have performed 2,600 searches using the new database feature, which is designed to analyze a snapshot or, in some cases, security camera image, and identify the person by matching the photo with his or her driver's license photo or police mug shot.

DeWine last week told The Enquirer he didn't think the public needed to be notified about the launch because 26 other states have facial recognition databases.

Now, more than two months into the launch, he's creating an advisory group of judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officials to make recommendations for updated rules for the system's use.

The facial recognition technology is aimed in part at leveraging the growing prevalence of security cameras in daily life.

Ohioans are on camera in parks, schools, elevators, stores, highways and parking garages. Cameras track boats on the Ohio River, gamblers at casinos, revelers at concerts and sometimes people walking in their own neighborhood.

In Cincinnati, the police department can tap into 118 security cameras, but hopes to increase that number to 1,000 by the end of 2014. At least hundreds more are available to them if business owners hand over the images for investigations.

The cameras can help to solve crimes, but opponents question whether the loss of privacy is worth the gains.

People with access to the new system – Ohio's law enforcement officers and civilian employees of police departments – could match any photo of people on the street to photos in the database and gain access to personal information.

The database retains Ohioans' current driver's license photos and their previous two photos. Paired with the photo is all the personal information found on a driver's license – sex, address, birth date, height, weight and eye and hair color.

Since the use of driver's license photos is governed by Ohio and federal law, residents don't receive anything when they get their license photo taken that explains how the government may use the photo, said Bureau of Motor Vehicles spokesman Joe Andrews.

When a law enforcement officer or employee conducts a facial recognition search, he or she uploads a snapshot or security camera image of someone who needs to be identified.

The system compares the image with more than 21 million mug shots and license photos and returns up to 12 most likely to match the snapshot. The officer can then review the photos to judge whether any of them might be the same person in the uploaded image.

Straight-on, high-resolution photos work the best in the system. That means security-camera stills, which are often shot from above and which are often grainy, don't often return accurate results. Photos in which people are wearing glasses or smiling also aren't as easy to match.

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"The fact that over half of states use (facial recognition technology), the fact that the FBI has used it, the fact that we have controls in (the online database) that work in the sense that we could prosecute people ... all of those indicate to me that what we have is adequate."

The same database has been misused many times in the past. Last year, Shelby County Sheriff Dean Kimpel was convicted of using the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway database to perform background checks on four women.

The charge only came to light after he was indicted for sexual assault of one of the victims he had looked up in the database. Kimpel was sentenced to community service.

"The time for press conferences and advisory boards was months ago," Ohio Associate ACLU Director Gary Daniels.

"This system needs to be shut down until there are meaningful, documented rules in place to keep this information secure, protect the privacy of innocent people, and prevent government abuse of this new tool."

Like the NSA all the way at the top of the surveillance state food-chain, the Ohio AG seems more concerned about earning 'the public trust' than he does with running a system that comports with democratic values like openness and accountability.

The accountability measures officials suggest are also reminiscent of the unserious proposals offered by officials in the wake of the NSA scandals.

The Ohio government proposes creating a pop-up screen to remind system users that they should only use the face recognition technology "for official purposes."

That would be funny if it were a joke about NSA oversight; sadly, it is not.

The ACLU in Ohio, meanwhile, is calling for the system to be shut down until the public can fully engage in debate and deliberation over the merits and details of such a system.

The rest of us should pay close attention to what goes on in Ohio. The story about Ohio's bad romance with face recognition software raises pertinent and timely questions for the entire nation, as law enforcement increasingly obtains access to powerful, expensive, high-tech surveillance tools.

Is the drivers' license database in your state being used as a face recognition fishing pond for police and FBI agents? How could it be that officials are making decisions like this behind closed doors, without any public debate?

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If local and state police are using face recognition tied into the nearly ubiquitous surveillance cameras throughout our cities and towns, it could spell the end of privacy in public as we know it.

Shouldn't we think about that -- and debate it -- before plunging head-first into a futuristic dystopia, where the government knows all and yet we know virtually nothing about what its 'security' agents do behind computer screens, in dark rooms?


August 28, 2013 - posted at MassPrivateI

 

Sources for this article...

http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20130825/NEWS010801/308250087/WATCHDOG-Ohioans-not-told-how-license-photos-used?gcheck=1

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/06/17/say-cheese-some-states-put-drivers-license-photos-in-facial-recognition-database-for-law-enforcement-use/

http://thenewspaper.com/news/41/4190.asp

http://privacysos.org/node/1163

 

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Wed, 08/28/2013 - 8:46pm.