BALTIMORE (WJZ)— Privacy advocates are crying foul over the police use of sophisticated facial recognition software and access to all Maryland driver’s license photos to identify suspects.
State officials are allowing police departments to run all Maryland driver’s licenses through facial recognition software, outraging privacy advocates who say it’s a violation of rights.
“You do not need to have had to have your mug shot taken to be enrolled in a system that police can search maybe multiple times a day, maybe hundreds if not thousands of times a week,” said Clare Garvie, lead author of The Perpetual Line-Up – Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law.
Baltimore City police used the technology during unrest following Freddie Gray’s death.
Georgetown University’s Center for Privacy and Technology looked at police use of facial recognition across the country–and found law enforcement in Maryland are among the most aggressive and unchecked users.
“We think that searches of people’s driver licenses should stop until the people take a vote in those states and decide to allow those searches,” said Alvaro Bedoya, with Georgetown University’s Center for Privacy and Technology.
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services runs the database; police can also access FBI mug shots.
No one with the agency would go on camera, but a spokesman said in a statement sharing motor vehicle records with police has been going on for decades to fight crime, and access is restricted to appropriate police personnel.
“You have problems on top of problems on top of problems,” said David Rocah, with the ACLU of Maryland.
It’s the latest battle against big brother for Rocah, after recent revelations of a surveillance plane providing police with images across Baltimore and devices police used to track cell phones.
“In Baltimore, the City Council has been told and apparently feels it doesn’t have the authority to regulate the Baltimore City Police Department, Rocah said. “That’s quite frankly insane. It’s a completely unacceptable state of affairs.”
The state says they’ve never received a single report of abuse and that regular audits are done, but Rocah believes the system itself is unconstitutional.
“By virtue of getting a driver’s license, they have now virtually submitted themselves to a constant police lineup,” Rocah says.
As many as 7,000 members of law enforcement have access to the database.