Arizona citizens are now in a government database that uses facial recognition technology to track them simply for getting a driver’s license. This allows federal and local law enforcement to use the “perpetual lineup” of suspects not accused of a crime to see if someone is wanted for a crime, Arizona Capitol Times reported. The state says that the program is to prevent identity theft and fraud. Here’s how it works according to Arizona Capitol Times.
After someone at the Motor Vehicle Division takes your photo, your face is scanned by a system based on a proprietary algorithm that analyzes facial features. The system compares your face against the 19 million photos in the state’s driver’s license database to look for similarities. If an image is similar enough, the system will flag it for further review. The program is an effort that is part of a nationwide initiative called the REAL ID Act that was created by Congress in 2005 as a response to the September 11th terror attacks. The system allows the state to comply with the federal act, which increased standards for identification documents. Although the REAL ID Act does not explicitly call for facial recognition, it does maintain that states need to take measures to reduce fraud.
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) already has publicly boasted about the success with more than 100 cases it has taken to court for fraud using the technology, which has been in place since early 2015. The other key issue is the fact that residents in Arizona aren’t even being told that this is going on – coupled with the lack of oversight and disclosure, it becomes a nightmare for privacy rights advocates. “If you don’t know that a system is in place, you actually don’t have the choice of consenting to it or not,” said Clare Garvie who authored the “perpetual line-up” study. Jim Dempsey, the executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, also had some reservations about the lack of disclosure currently in effect.
Informed consent, through giving notice to people that their faces will be matched up against millions of others when they apply for a license, is a basic tenet of privacy, Jim Dempsey, the executive director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology, said. Even if notice is given, it’s unlikely that people would opt out of getting a license because facial recognition technology is used because people will decide driving a car and having a legal ID outweigh the risks, Dempsey said.
“It’s an important element. The lack of it is an issue, but it’s one that should be corrected and would be easy to correct,” he said.
Both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have voiced their concerns about state facial recognition databases and how this could be tied into the push by the federal government to use these databases in airports and border checkpointscreating a dystopian Orwellian surveillance state. “DMV photo databases are probably the most comprehensive databases in existence,” which means they’re “very, very powerful” tools for potential surveillance, something the ACLU worries could be a “next step,” Jay Stanley a senior policy analyst at ACLU said.