OFF LIMITS: The state says it doesn't allow broad federal agency snooping into Arkansas license infomration and photos.

OFF LIMITS: The state says it doesn’t allow broad federal agency snooping into Arkansas license information and photos.

Lots of discussion on the web today about a Washington Post article concerning FBI and ICE use of facial recognition software to mine state driver license databases, often without legislative authorization and without notice to the many innocent people who’ve been added to federal surveillance files.


An Arkansas spokesman says we’re not among the states tapped by such exploration.

The Post wrote:


Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have turned state driver’s license databases into a facial-recognition gold mine, scanning through millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent, newly released documents show.

Thousands of facial-recognition requests, internal documents and emails over the past five years, obtained through public-records requests by researchers with Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology and provided to The Washington Post, reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.

Police have long had access to fingerprints, DNA and other “biometric data” taken from criminal suspects. But the DMV records contain the photos of a vast majority of a state’s residents, most of whom have never been charged with a crime.

Neither Congress nor state legislatures have authorized the development of such a system, and growing numbers of Democratic and Republican lawmakers are criticizing the technology as a dangerous, pervasive and error-prone surveillance tool

I asked Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, about FBI or ICE requests for access to the state license database, which is off-limits to average citizens.

His response:


We’ve not received any FOIA requests from federal agencies for driver’s license photos. Only appropriate, required DFA staff have access to the photos in the database. We have not allowed access beyond this to any federal agencies. Over many years there have been a very limited number of instances in which an established, existing FBI investigation (with a case number, etc) required we provide one specific photo. Again, those are extremely limited and in no way involve more than the one required photo involved in the case. These were not ICE-related. DFA will continue to protect each driver’s privacy as provided via the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act.