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ICE, FBI scan driver's license photos for facial recognition searches

It's all been happening without license holders' knowledge or consent, according to The Washington Post.


The use of facial recognition tech is already under way.

State databases of driver's licenses have reportedly become a treasure trove for facial recognition searches by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Millions of Americans' license photos have been scanned without their knowledge or consent, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

The Post based its article on five years of documents provided by Georgetown Law researchers. 

In a related report released last month, the Government Accountability Office noted that the FBI has logged over 390,000 facial recognition searches of federal and local databases since 2011, including states' motor vehicles department databases.

Neither Congress nor any state legislature has approved the use of such searches of DMV databases, the Post reported. 

The revelation of this massive informal system and the potential for abuse of facial recognition technology has led digital rights group Fight for the Future to demand an "all-out ban" on facial recognition technology. 

"This surveillance technology poses such a profound threat to the future of human society and basic liberty that its dangers far outweigh any potential benefits. We don't need to regulate it, we need to ban it entirely," Evan Greer, Fight for the Future's deputy director, said Tuesday in a statement.  

On its Ban Facial Recognition site, people can send a message to their congressional and local representatives. Greer said the group will reach out directly to lawmakers and organize online protests.

Fight for the Future isn't alone in its interest in banning government use of facial recognition tech. Since May, the cities of San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts, passed ordinances banning its use.

ICE declined to comment on "investigative techniques, tactics or tools." The FBI didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.   

Originally published July 8.
Updated on July 9: Adds information about Fight for the Future.

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