A new report claims the FBI and ICE imported driver’s license photos into a facial recognition database between 2014 and 2017. This was done without the consent of the individuals whose information was recorded. The two agencies reportedly compiled a database of millions of people living in the U.S.
The agencies purport to have designed the database to help battle crime and deport undocumented immigrants. However, many say this nonconsensual usage of personal information and facial recognition capabilities could violate the civil rights of both undocumented and documented immigrants, as well as those of U.S. citizens. Even Republicans have raised privacy concerns.
Thirteen states, including California, Colorado, Washington, and most recently New York, allow undocumented immigrants to apply for and obtain a driver’s license. New Jersey and several other states have proposed similar bills. Proponents of such laws argue that this leads to fewer hit-and-runs, more trust between immigrants and police, and increased revenue for states.
The timing of the law enforcement agencies’ project means that undocumented immigrants in New York have not yet been included in the database. Further, NY’s law forbids the use of DMV data for immigration enforcement activities.
The bombshell report has stoked bipartisan resistance to the program. “Law enforcement’s access of state databases,” particularly DMV databases, is “often done in the shadows with no consent,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the House Oversight Committee’s ranking Republican, expressed upset over the lack of consent from constituents regarding the usage of their information. “They’ve just given access to that to the FBI,” he said. “No individual signed off on that when they renewed their driver’s license, got their driver’s licenses. They didn’t sign any waiver saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay to turn my information, my photo, over to the FBI.’ No elected officials voted for that to happen.”