by Jake Johnson, Activist Post:
A trove of public records obtained by privacy experts at Georgetown Law revealed that ICE and the FBI have used facial recognition technology to mine state driver’s license databases for information on millions of Americans without consent, a practice critics condemned as a “disturbing” breach of civil liberties.
According to the Washington Post, which first reported on the documents late Sunday, “Thousands of facial-recognition requests, internal documents, and emails over the past five years… reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.”
“Police have long had access to fingerprints, DNA, and other ‘biometric data’ taken from criminal suspects,” the Post reported. “But the DMV records contain the photos of a vast majority of a state’s residents, most of whom have never been charged with a crime.”
Privacy advocates and immigrant rights groups reacted with alarm to the documents, the release of which comes as members of Congress are increasingly raising concerns about the threat facial recognition technology poses to civil liberties.
“Besides targeting undocumented folks, ICE is running facial recognition searches against millions of photos. You. Your family. Your friends,” tweeted the non-profit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). “This is a major violation of privacy.”
Besides targeting undocumented folks, ICE is running facial recognition searches against MILLIONS of photos. You. Your family. Your friends. This is a MAJOR violation of privacy.
Let’s not continue to make our reality an episode of Black Mirror…https://t.co/vKFvZlinYd
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) 8 July 2019
As the Post reported, the FBI and ICE have carried out facial recognition searches in three states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain full driver’s licenses—Utah, Vermont, and Washington.
According to the Post:
More than a dozen states, including New York, as well as the District of Columbia, allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally with full licenses or driving privilege cards. Lawmakers in Florida, Texas, and other states have introduced bills this year that would extend driving privileges to undocumented immigrants. Some of those states already allow the FBI to scan driver’s license photos, while others, such as Florida and New York, are negotiating with the FBI over access.