27 August 2013

Don't smile for the camera, citizen

Got a driver's license in Ohio? Then your state Attorney General has added your face to a database where it can be checked against faces of criminal suspects. Announced this week, the A.G. has been using this system all summer before telling every driver in Ohio that they are presumed guilty of a crime before facial-recognition software determines that they aren't.

ACLU of Ohio is calling it a privacy problem. I don't think it is, because you don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in your driver's license photo. You have to show it in many situations; and driving is a privilege, not a right. The problem is one of due process.

I mean, fine: test my driver's license photo against the photo of a crime victim (or the reconstruction of their face) or some unidentified person to try to put a name to a body or find someone. But don't take that photo and test it against enhanced surveillance photos of unidentified perpetrators of a crime! In the first case, the assumption is that I'm an ordinary suspicionless citizen who may be the victim of a crime or misadventure. In the second case, though, the assumption is I'm a suspected criminal.

First case: All drivers are beneficiaries of police protection.

Second case: All drivers are suspected criminals subject to police action against them.

Holy deprivation of due process, Batman!

Over half the states are using this kind of scheme. Not sure if your state is one of them? Ask yourself this: last time you got your driver's license photo taken, is it the rule that you're not allowed to smile? (Note about that link: the infographic indicates that Ohio doesn't have a facial-recognition system, though the article was posted only in June. How many other states do you figure provided incorrect or incomplete information?)

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