Utah’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) has established internal guidelines for its use of facial recognition. The new protocols are intended to increase transparency and public accountability through the creation of an auditable record of all external facial recognition requests. The DPS will also require bias training for anyone with access to the biometric system.
The new guidelines were enacted in response to a report that found that DPS regularly shared information with other US law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The DPS database includes millions of Utah driver’s licenses, allowing the agency to use the database to search for face matches in criminal investigations.
However, many Utah citizens were not aware of the scope of the facial recognition program, and often did not even know that their images could be searched at all. With that in mind, many privacy advocates believe that the new DPS policy does not do enough to protect the civil liberties of people living in Utah, especially since it is an internal guideline rather than a law.
“People take a driver’s license picture for the purpose of being able to use an automobile on the roads,” said Utah ACLU Legal and Policy Counsel Marina Lowe. “When you enter into that contract with the DMV, there is little understanding that the photo may be placed in a database that could be regularly searched by law enforcement agencies — not just here in Utah, but by national agencies or other agencies across the United States.”
“I think the reaction to the story when it broke proves the point that people had no idea that this was happening,” she continued. “There was a real sense of outrage that there had not been any sort of legislative authority to engage in this practice.”
The DPS policy was enacted after several attempts to pass more comprehensive facial recognition legislation fell short. To that end, Utah Senate Bill 218 would have made it so that the DPS – and only the DPS – could use the technology, and even then could only use it to investigate serious felonies like murder. The bill would have notably barred the use of facial recognition in civil immigration cases. Despite its relationship with ICE, the DPS said that it did not allow the organization to use facial recognition for deportation purposes.
The bill was ultimately derailed by disagreements between its various stakeholders. The DPS currently uses facial recognition to investigate major and minor offenses, and conducts an average of 40 searches every month. Utah Senator Mike Lee has backed federal legislation that would force law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before using facial recognition.
Source: Government Technology
October 6, 2020 – by Eric Weiss