Ohio Forgot To Tell Residents That Cops Have Been Using Facial Recognition On License Photos

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is facing some criticism after a news investigation revealed that his office had launched a facial recognition system, which allows police to scan pictures of suspects and match them to drivers license photos in the law enforcement’s database. Despite the fact that the system hadn’t been updated to provide protection against misuse, DeWine says he will make sure it isn’t used improperly.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said its investigation had found that after the system’s June 6 launch, officials in DeWine’s office had mulled over the idea of what security protocols should be put in place, and discussed when they could tell the public it had already started. Since then, officers have already performed 2,700 searches with the facial recognition system.

Some officials in Ohio are asking to turn off the software until there are clear rules in place to prevent against someone say, deciding to look up whoever they darn well please after taking a photo of them on the street.

“I still think the protocol’s adequate,” DeWine said at a press conference yesterday. “We’re not aware of any misuse. When you get misuse, someone reports it… . The best deterrent is putting people in jail, quite frankly.”

While noting that his office didn’t need legislative permission to start using the technology because Ohio lets law enforcement access driver’s license photos already, DeWine did admit that he should’ve alerted the public that the system had launched before it happened. He says police already face a felony if they abuse the system, but he’ll also form an advisory group to investigate what kind of protocol changes could be instituted to beef up security.

That’s not enough for some critics like politicians in the state government and the American Civil Liberties Union, who say that there should be an auditing of the system, and oversight by the Legislature.

“We don’t even know if it’s constitutional,” said Sen. Shirley Smith, who is planning on asking the Bureau of Criminal Investigation chief to turn off the system until it’s thoroughly checked out. “We know that it’s an invasion of privacy. I understand that he’s the attorney general, but I think we should have been apprised of it before it hit the street.”

The ACLU thinks the Bureau of Motor Vehicles should also let Ohioans know where their license photos are going, as the system is illegal in several states. A senior policy analyst for the ACLU says law enforcement officials should also have to submit some kind of paperwork at the very least, before running a photo through the system.

Without strict rules, “is law enforcement going to start attaching the system to public surveillance cameras and start keeping logs of every person who walks by and when?” he said.

DeWine: I should’ve announced facial recognition effort [Cincinnati Enquirer]