Nearly 9 million Ohio license and ID holders to be added to facial recognition database

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A sample Ohio driver's license(Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles)
Updated: Feb. 21, 2020 at 8:34 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Nearly nine million Ohio drivers and state ID holders will soon be added to the state’s controversial facial-recognition system.

At a news conference in Columbus on Thursday, Attorney General Dave Yost outlined some of the recommendations made by his task force to improve the program.

Among the suggestions is to require the BMV to submit copies of all driver’s license photos and state ID cards. The information would be accessible to statewide law enforcement agencies and immigration agencies.

Last fall, Yost suspended facial-recognition over growing concerns about federal agencies mining state-level databases, among other things.

In doing so, he appointed the task force, which recently concluded its report.

The report made 13 recommendations:

The Ohio Attorney General should appoint a Facial Recognition Advisory Committee to work in collaboration with the OHLEG Advisory Committee and to assist the OHLEG Steering Committee.

The General Assembly should be encouraged to weigh-in on the appropriate use of Facial Recognition technology and its oversight.

The Attorney General should limit access to the Facial Recognition database to trained professionals at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The Attorney General should declare a moratorium on the use of “live” facial recognition.

The Attorney General should maintain the current OHLEG standard that expressly prohibits the use of facial recognition to conduct surveillance of persons or groups based solely on their religious, political, or other constitutionally protected activities or affiliations.

The Attorney General should promulgate a specific standard for when law enforcement may utilize facial recognition and define investigative purpose for its use. This standard should require reasonable suspicion that the person to be identified has committed a crime, the person’s actions present a danger to human life or may cause serious physical harm, or that law enforcement must use facial recognition to identify someone who is not able to identify him or herself.

The Attorney General should follow the recommended guidance from the Facial Identification Scientific Working Group (FISWG)v for security and maintenance of the system.

The Attorney General should follow the recommended guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)vi to conduct accuracy assessments of how the system works.

The facial recognition database system should have an image quality standard and disqualify images that do not meet that standard.

Probe images used by law enforcement should not be enrolled in the facial recognition database.

The Attorney General should seek agreement from the Department of Public Safety and Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to enroll current BMV images that meet the requisite image quality standard in the facial recognition database.

Ohio’s Facial Recognition Policy should address routine monitoring, periodic audits, enforcement, and public transparency.

The Attorney General should ensure the public has access to information about the use and regulation of facial recognition in Ohio.

Gary Daniels, Chief Lobbyist for the ACLU of Ohio, told 19 News that facial-recognition shouldn’t be allowed at all in Ohio.

"The seriousness of the ability of this technology to infringe upon civil liberties is too great,” Daniels said.

Concerns have been raised nationwide about the potential adverse effects on minority groups.

"Law Enforcement in general, when it comes to use of technology to surveil and follow people, there seems to always be over the years and decades a disparate impact on certain people in certain communities. That’s certainly the case here,” said Daniels. “I don’t think you’ll see this technology being used with regard, for instance, somebody committing a white-collar crime (like) embezzling something from a bank. But you might very well see it with, for instance, Black Lives Matter activists.”

The task force recommended the technology not be used for live surveillance; however, meaning agencies shouldn’t be allowed to scan crowds in real-time.

The aim of the program, they suggest, is to help law enforcement identify violent criminals, potentially comparing surveillance footage with faces in the database, which previously included photos of sex offenders, state inmate photos, and jail mugshots.

"We must not cripple justice by failing to use technology where we are able to produce more just results,” said Yost, adding that the task force found no evidence of prior misuse or abuse in the program.

Yost said additional ‘guardrails’ have also been put in place to prevent them in the future.

19 News spoke to several drivers as they left various BMV locations in Cleveland, with mixed reactions.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” said Pete Gulyas. “I don’t have anything to hide.”

“I don’t like that at all,” said another driver who didn’t want to speak on camera.

While Yost hasn’t said which recommendations he will take and apply to the facial-recognition program if and when it resumes, it’s expected that all license and ID photos dating back to 2011 will be submitted.

The addition of those 8.8 million photos would bring the total number of facial images in the system to about 24 million.

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