The FBI and ICE have been using American citizens’ driver’s license photos for facial recognition searches without their knowledge or consent, The Washington Post reports.
The two agencies have used millions of citizens’ photos from state agencies in 21 states to run facial recognition searches, according to the report. Unlike fingerprints and data taken from criminal suspects, the DMV records allow federal agencies to track people who have never been charged with a crime.
Democrats and Republicans agreed that the practice was never permitted by Congress nor state legislatures.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings told The Post that the access to the databases came “in the shadows with no consent.”
Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the committee, ripped the FBI for the practice last month.
“They’ve just given access to that to the FBI,” he said. “No individual signed off on that when they renewed their driver’s license, got their driver’s licenses. They didn’t sign any waiver saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay to turn my information, my photo, over to the FBI.’ No elected officials voted for that to happen.”
Facial recognition now ‘routine investigative tool’:
Despite lawmakers’ concerns, the Post reports that facial recognition has become a common investigative tool in the last decade. The FBI has logged more than 390,000 facial recognition searches since 2011.
Records provided to the House Committee on Homeland Security show that facial recognition has been used to track down suspects in low-level crimes and searches are performed with little oversight.
“It’s really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system,” Jake Laperruque, a senior counsel at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, told The Post. “People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these [facial-recognition] searches are happening very frequently today. The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs.”
Facial recognition may be used to find undocumented immigrants:
ICE agents have also run facial recognition searches in states that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain full driver’s licenses or driving privilege permits, like Washington, Utah, and Vermont.
“The state has told [undocumented immigrants], has encouraged them, to submit that information. To me, it’s an insane breach of trust to then turn around and allow ICE access to that,” Clare Garvie, a senior associate with Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology, told the Post.
“The public doesn’t have a way of controlling what information the government has on them,” added Jacinta González, a senior organizer for the advocacy group Mijente. “And now there’s this rapidly advancing technology, with very few guidelines and protections for people, putting all of this information at their fingertips in a very scary way.”