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State Photo-ID Databases Mined By Police 205

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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  • Welcome to 1984 ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:14PM (#44032577) Homepage

    These guys are really trying hard to make sure 1984 and Brave New World actually come true.

    Once they have it, they'll misuse it, and tell you it's for your own good.

    Freedom has gone out of fashion, and now we're stuck with the surveillance society.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:30PM (#44032775)

    This is another case of tech and computers automating and making something that was acceptable unacceptable.

    Having a cop follow your car around without a warrant? Acceptable. Having a cop put a GPS tracker on your car without a warrant? Unacceptable.

    Having someone sit on a street corner and write down every license plate number that goes by, acceptable. Putting a camera there and doing it automatically? Unacceptable (to me but sadly I just have to deal with it)

    Pulling the DL info of every 6'2" male with red hair in YourTown and manually comparing to a photo? Acceptable. Comparing that same photo automatically against a database of everyone in the USA, unacceptable.

    Many other examples. It comes down to things that were manpower limited before so they were very hard to abuse suddenly becoming trivial.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 17, 2013 @03:59PM (#44033065)

    It is funny that you mention Brave New World. That is widely regarded as a classic of Western Literature. Yet A similar author who had much the same conclusion as Aldus Huxely(sp) is widely regarded as a lunatic and locked in jail now. Just reading his manifesto is likely to cause you to be looked at askance and called a cook. His name was Ted Kaczynski. Every single Newspaper (thought control organization) called his manifesto an incoherent work of a lunatic. Disregarding the fact he killed a few people, The MSP can not ever allow his thesis to be considered seriously. It is always looked on with mockery. My thoughts are that if it had been written 50 years earlier (perhapes in a less controlled society) it too would have been a classic.

    Some thoughts are just too dangerous to be expressed out loud.

    Well I am going back to watch T.V. and drink some of my favorite alcoholic beverage. It helps to keep my mind off the utter meaningless of my life in the world i live in today.

  • by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:01PM (#44033089)

    Amazing how people seem to think that any of this is new and the outrage this is causing.

    This, and other technology being recently being "outed" has been around since the early-mid 2000's. How do I know? I wrote a lot of it while working for a provider of software for public safety and law enforcement. It isn't secret - you can go to their website and read the features the software provides. Or, you can read any of the LE magazines out there to learn what the various public safety software providers are, in fact, providing to police departments across the country.

    Facial recognition was still in its early evolution when we looked at it back in, I believe, 2005-2007. When I left in 2009, we still had not integrated facial recognition into our desktop software (and, we we a leading provider) - let alone mobile software - it just wasn't ready. Other vendors did provide OCR to work with cameras that could read a license plate into software that would then look up the license plate in NCIC and the local DMV. Some states allowed more judicious use when querying the DMV. But, access to NCIC and the criminal justice information systems required probable cause to conduct a search. Each query was logged and, if questioned, the person making the request better have had a valid reason to have conducted the search. A case in point - it is well known that Phila. Traffic and Parking Authority uses OCR scanning to looking up scofflaws by scanning the plates of parked vehicles. Are they hitting the DMV or just a parking violation database managed by the city? That, I am not sure.

    However, whenever someone is/was arrested and booked, their images, prints, tattoo information, etc, was placed into our database - instantly searchable by keyword for the generation of a line up. Most photos weren't suitable for facial recognition back then. Traffic analysis is not new either. Our case management system would allow associations to be derived based on information reported in an incident report or booking report. By following the trail, other potential suspects could be quickly discovered. I can see how this capability could be used with phone call meta-data. Was it done? Maybe. But, if it did, it required a warrant.

    As for facial recognition - it's possible that today's software is ready to process DMV photos. Some states were requiring that images pass certain checks (via software) before being allowed to be submitted into the system But, I am not sure they can, legally, request those images for retention on their local systems. If it's legal now (at least in PA), I would be highly surprised.

    Perhaps, someone currently working in the field, could clarify the current state regarding access to NCIC, DMV and similar systems?

  • by PracticalM ( 1089001 ) on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:36PM (#44033399)

    Except that the IRS targeting of tea party organization was also accompanied by targeting of organizations with Progressive in their name. And more left organizations were actually denied tax exempt status (which isn't hard because no tea party organizations were denied tax exempt status). And the IRS guy in charge was a Bush appointee. And Bush era IRS targeted liberal churches that dared to mention there was an election happening at the same time that conservative churches were beating the drums to elect Bush. And really the tragedy is that we let any groups that are not 100% dedicated to social welfare claim tax exempt status at all and/or hide their donors.

    Love how conservatives continually claim to be persecuted and the facts tend to disagree.

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell