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State Photo-ID Databases Mined By Police 205

Posted by samzenpus
from the hits-keep-coming dept.
Rick Zeman writes "Showing once again that once a privacy door is opened every law enforcement agency will run through it, The Washington Post details how state drivers license photo databases are being mined by various LEOs in their states--and out. From the article: '[L]aw enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities. Such open access has caused a backlash in some of the few states where there has been a public debate. As the databases grow larger and increasingly connected across jurisdictional boundaries, critics warn that authorities are developing what amounts to a national identification system — based on the distinct geography of each human face.'"
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State Photo-ID Databases Mined By Police

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  • by alen (225700) on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:13PM (#44032561)

    every time someone gives a description of a getaway car, the cops look it up in the state DMV database. my car's data is in there. my privacy is violated daily because my car might be coming up in searches

  • In Capitalist U$A (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:15PM (#44032591)

    the Government watches you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:18PM (#44032635)

    Your papers please.

  • You don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:24PM (#44032703)
    Privacy? No, privacy is only for the government.
  • We knew this. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:31PM (#44032795)

    It's rather important to understand why this is in fact abuse, and not acceptable law enforcement behaviour.

    I say the pictures were ment to provide easy verification that the driver's licence you're holding is in fact yours. Matching against databases was not in the original charter, so to speak, and in fact storing the pictures at all beyond display on the licence itself isn't either. It is this stretching of use beyond the original what is so deceitful and ultimately damaging to society.

    This quite regardless of who does it (our watchers, for our own good, of course), with what intentions (the very best, for our own good, of course), the direct results (LE is happy with their new toy, for a while), and so on.

    We probably ought to embrace the principle that data can only ever be used for the purpose it was gathered for, and nothing else. This seems, perhaps is rather draconian, but is the only way to be clear and honest about it, making it a better option than any of the alternatives.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:32PM (#44032809) Homepage

    Yes, they will. As weaknesses in facial recognition systems get discovered, they will get patched. Soon it won't matter if you grow or shave your facial hair, whether you dye or bleach your skin, or whatever.

    And, really, at this rate they'd just make it illegal for you to significantly alter your appearance without registering with the authorities.

    Once the State decides it's they're right to watch everything you do, attempting to dodge that must clearly be a sign of bad intent. Clearly an honest person wouldn't be doing this.

    Oddly enough, if we tried to pass a law that says everything an officer of the law does is to be recorded and made public, they'd be up in arms about their privacy.

  • Licenses sold (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:33PM (#44032819)

    I noted from the article, that there was a single company collecting this information, and besides the LE, I wondered who else is buying/getting the information. I remember a few years ago in my state, we were notified that we had to 'opt-out' or our driver's license info would be sold to mailing lists and I still have to 'opt-out' every time I renew my license. google: 'drivers license opt out mailing lists' for some interesting info.
    I could see companies buying this info, and using the security cameras, tracking where you go & what you buy. Look at it as an expansion of the 'buyers loyalty cards' programs that currently exist.
    At one time, I considered 'Enemy of the State' to be paranoia, but now I'm seeing it as prophetic.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:34PM (#44032841)
    The IRS targeting tea party organizations for scrutiny proves that abuse happens today and will continue to happen as long as law enforcement has access to private personal information. Think how many times in your life someone has been exonerated after spending years in jail for crimes they didn't commit. It is an outright lie for anyone to say personal private information will not be abused. It is being abused now and that will continue. No matter what the President says, your information is not safe or secure and you can easily become a completely innocent target.
  • by CKW (409971) on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:35PM (#44032849) Journal

    > 1984

    Is infinite and open access to information the core of "what's wrong" with society in 1984? Or is it the fact that the citizens have no control over their government, no freedom of speach, etc?

    What's the technological difference between

    - all citizens each day looking at photos of people wanted by the police for what we consider crimes, and calling the local detachment when we recognize someone
    - a computer doing the above
    - citizens calling the KGB because their neighbour said something snarky about the state
    - a computer doing the above

    > Brave New World

    And I quote: "The vast majority of the population is unified under the World State, an eternally peaceful, stable global society in which goods and resources are plentiful (because the population is permanently limited to no more than two billion people) and everyone is happy."

    I strongly object to warrantless wiretapping, and I definitely want tons of checks and balances, and I want my elected representatives to share my values.

    That doesn't mean that "databases" are inherently bad, or can't help us create a more effective just society. Like all tools, it depends on how you use them. Ever read "The Golden Age" by John C. Wright, or any of the Polity novels by Neal Asher?

  • Re:We knew this. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:36PM (#44032855) Homepage

    We probably ought to embrace the principle that data can only ever be used for the purpose it was gathered for, and nothing else.

    I agree, but the more likely outcome is that they decide that everyone needs to submit to this kind of identification so they're on file. If you don't have a drivers license, you still need to be cataloged in case you commit a crime.

    School kids will have their biometrics cataloged under the guise of protecting them, and then that information will move into the police database so that as they become older we can be sure to catch them if they ever commit a crime.

    I see this getting far worse, not better. Much much worse.

  • by spire3661 (1038968) on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:53PM (#44033009) Journal
    The core problem of information in 1984 is that it is completely malleable by the party. Black literally becomes white at a party member's whim.
  • by flayzernax (1060680) on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:22PM (#44033291)

    I don't need to live in a perfectly safe and sanitary society. Not my problem. Stop wrecking my society and culture. Learn self defense. Make good friends and networks. Build community. Or live responsibly.

    Stop creating dystopian bullshit. It is not as effective as your OVERLORDS would lead you to believe.

  • Re:We knew this. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:22PM (#44033293)

    From where I sit, the tea partiers are a bunch of extremely stupid, selfish, and short-sighted teabaggers. Sort-of the political equivalent of tin foil mad hatters. Hysterical and loud, but not the teeniest bit of funny.

    Of course, they'll happily brand me a commie once they learn I'm from faraway yurp, where by and large the medical system is socialist yet costs half of what it does in the USoA without Obamacare. On things like gun control I can't really be arsed to care, you sort it out. But demanding the freedom to get crippled by medical costs should anything happen because you can't afford regular insurance, when less liberated countries do provide medical care to everybody and manage to do so without the crippling cost, that's just fscking stupid. Criminally so, especially for self-identifying christians.

    The thing with most politics in the USoA is that it isn't about your particular stance, but about whose side you're on, and then for great bashing of the other side. Again from here, it's indiscernible wtf you're on about, except that it involves lots of shouting and absolutely no brains. The tea partiers are a painfully worse lot in a bad bunch.

    In that respect they're experts in making themselves deservedly unheard over their own din regardless of the merits of their points, if any. Experts in doing their points a disservice to the detriment of all, if you will. Which, by and large, isn't a bad thing given what can be discerned from their issues.

  • by Nickodeimus (1263214) on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:53PM (#44033593)
    The problem is not that it doesn't make things better. The problem is where, how, and when it will be abused. (It's 100% certain that there will be no if, because we all know that the government already gathers as many reins of power to itself as it can grasp.)

    This is the concept that most people don't recognize. Most people say\think that its all good to protect the children or catch the terrorists. But what happens if you are in that database and some government entity unlawfully decides that your class of people, whatever it may be, needs to be disenfranchised, persecuted, or even killed off?

    People will almost always say that those things can never happen here in the US. It happens in other places in the world but never here. The reason it doesn't happen here, for the most part, is because we have been, and must be, ever vigilant for these kinds of abuses and crush them when they start down that proverbial slippery slope.

    Don't open the door to the possibility of it happening and it never will. By allowing this type of scenario to occur we are definitely opening the door.
  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:17PM (#44033781) Homepage Journal

    I remember watching a program about the police work done after the Boston Marathon bombing. They took the photographs produced by the FBI and ran them against facial recognition.

    After a LOT of tweaking, they were able to get the actual photo of the actual bomber into the top 20 matches! By which I mean it was the 20th highest match out of a database of "samples" and not, say, all license photos. I think the entire sample size was in the thousands, so - not exactly a great example of facial recognition helping. And this was after they caught him, and after a lot of tweaking to try and "enhance" the photo they had off surveillance cameras.

    If anyone ever wanted a great example of photo recognition not helping catch people or why PRISM is entirely useless, the Boston Marathon bombing is a perfect example. Not only did photo recognition not help catch them, not only did having a giant database of phone calls not help, not only did declaring martial law and shutting down an entire metro area not help, having a notice from Russia saying "this man is a radicalized Islamic terrorist" didn't help!

  • by Applekid (993327) on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:24PM (#44033869)

    The difference between 1984 and Brave New World is dystopia by oppression versus dystopia by apathy.

    The true dystopian future is going to wind up being a little of both. Oppressive regimes that are impossible to overthrow, and apathy by those under their thumbs to actually do anything about it because they're living comfortable lives as long as they keep their heads down and try not to shake the tree too hard.

  • Re:We knew this. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:42PM (#44034025)

    You cant just say "screw precedent, the constitution, and 230 years of history, my idea is a good one".

    So what is the definition of, say, "interstate commerce" these days?

    As purists go you appear to be rather myopically picky as to what to be purist about.

    The thing with most politics in the USoA is that it isn't about your particular stance, but about whose side you're on,

    Its ironic you would say that after your disparaging remarks about people identifying as tea party, and your generally disparaging remarks towards conservatives in general. How have you NOT just made this an "us vs them"?

    Ah, the American and his sense of irony. Yes, I said the tea party were a pretty bad bunch. The rest wasn't about "conservatives in general" in the sense you would understand it. It was about American politics in general. There are two strong hints for you to put together to arrive at that conclusion. If you think that's conservatives and conservatives (the latter including the rabid tea party bunch), well, yes, from a European perspective that's just about correct.

    Which really reads "xenophobic and reactionary", for how is it not "the US vs. THEM"? How many wars, m'boy? You still have a law on the books pre-authorising invasion of my country, which also happens to be a NATO partner, pardner. If I'd wanted to curb-stomp some more, I could bring up flagrant hypocrisy like, among many other things, finger-wagging at all and sundry for human rights while gitmo--note how the elephant set it up but the donkey kept it. It's bad, it's worse, it's all the same. And the American People don't give a hoot about doing their job bringing THEIR government to see reason because it's not American Citizens that're getting shafted. How enlightened.

    Anyway, it was you that brought rather irrelevant party politics into it, when what's needed is understanding the issue and guiding law enforcement back on track of enforcing law, instead of militarising themselves and weaponising everything they can against the people they're supposed to protect and serve.

    Of course, "serving" has a rather legal meaning in American English.

It is clear that the individual who persecutes a man, his brother, because he is not of the same opinion, is a monster. - Voltaire

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