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  • FBI and ICE used facial recognition technology to mine millions of driver's license photos.

    FBI and ICE used facial recognition technology to mine millions of driver's license photos. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 July 2019

It was reported that ICE and the FBI carried out facial recognition searches in the states of Utah, Vermont, and Washington, which grant undocumented migrants the permission to have driver licenses.

The United States (U.S.) Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have used facial recognition technology to analyze millions of driver's license databases without any permission in order to get information to hunt migrants, according to documents obtained by privacy experts at the Georgetown University Law Center.

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"Thousands of facial-recognition requests, internal documents, and emails over the past five years, reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure," the Washington Post reporting on the records on Sunday.

Privacy advocates and Human Rights groups have responded with great worry over the news, which come at a time where members of Congress including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are expressing increasing concerns over the threats represented by facial recognition technology on privacy and civil liberties.

"Besides targeting undocumented folks, ICE is running facial recognition searches against millions of photos. You. Your family. Your friends" tweeted the non-profit Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). "This is a major violation of privacy."

In addition to targeting undocumented people, ICE is using state driver's license databases to scan millions of photos of people without their knowledge or consent. 
 

It was reported that ICE and the FBI carried out facial recognition searches in the states of Utah, Vermont, and Washington, which grant undocumented migrants the permission to have driver licenses.

More than a dozen states allow undocumented people to drive with full licenses or driving privilege cards, including New York, Florida, and Texas, among others. Some of these states have allowed the federal agencies in question to mine driver’s licenses, whereas others, such as Florida and New York are still negotiating over access to the data.

“It is really a surveillance-first, ask-permission-later system," a senior counsel at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight the Post, Jake Laperruque warned, as Congress has not approved any these methods.

"People think this is something coming way off in the future, but these [facial-recognition] searches are happening very frequently today," Laperruque added. "The FBI alone does 4,000 searches every month, and a lot of them go through state DMVs."

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