ICE extracted licensing databases for surveillance

WASHINGTON: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have undermined the state's driver's license database by using millions of driver's photos without their knowledge.

According to the recently published documents, in at least three states that offer driver's licenses, ICE officials have requested to comb in the state repositories of the license photos. At least two of those states, Utah and Vermont, complied, searching their photos for matches, records show.

In the third state, Washington, agents authorized administrative citations from the licensing department to perform a face recognition scan of all the photos of the license applicants, although it was not clear if the state carried out the searches. In Vermont, agents only had to submit a paper application that was later approved by the motor vehicle employees department.

The documents, obtained through requests for public records by the Georgetown Law Center for Privacy and Technology and first reported by the Washington Post, mark the first known instance of ICE that uses facial recognition technology to scan databases of state driver's licenses, including photos of legal residents and citizens.

Privacy experts such as Harrison Rudolph, a center associate who delivered the documents to the New York Times, said the records painted a new image of a practice that should be closed. This is a scandal, said Rudolph. The states have never passed laws authorizing ICE to dive into driver's license databases using face recognition to search for people.

He continued: These states have never told undocumented people that when they apply for a driver's license they are also giving their face to ICE. That is a great bait and change.

The use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement authorities is far from new or rare. More than two dozen states allow law enforcement officials to request such searches in their driver's license databases, a practice that has received criticism from lawmakers and advocates who say they conduct face-to-face searches against Millions of photos of non-compliant and law-abiding citizens is one of the main privacy violations.

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the FBI, for example, has captured photos of state authorities, mainly those for driver's licenses and visa applications. The office has made more than 390,000 searches through databases that collectively have more than 640 million photos, FBI officials said.

The documents of the Georgetown investigators covered 2014-2017, and it was not immediately clear if those states still meet the ICE requirements. The representatives of the motor vehicle departments of the states could not be contacted immediately for comment.

Matt Bourke, a spokesman for ICE, said the agency would not comment on techniques, tactics or investigative tools due to the sensitivities of the law. But he added: During the course of an investigation, ICE has the capacity to collaborate with local, federal and international external agencies to obtain information that can help in the finalization of the case and the subsequent processing. This is an established procedure that is compatible with other laws. enforcement agencies.

Facial recognition technology has received criticism from experts who point to studies that show that recognition algorithms are more likely to misidentify people of color, and in particular women of color.