FBI and ICE agents use the DMV
photo database for facial recognition scanning without residents’ knowledge or
consent, according
to public documents spanning five years obtained by Georgetown Law researchers and
shared with The Washington Post. This type of mass surveillance is “a routine
investigative tool,” the paper writes.

Federal agents add this to their
current database of fingerprints and DNA data collected from suspects in
criminal investigations yet, in this case, most people have no criminal history
whatsoever. In some US states, such as Utah, Vermont and Washington, undocumented
immigrants are allowed to have driver’s licenses or permits, which has made it
easier for ICE agents to run searches and deport people.

“The state has told [undocumented
immigrants], has encouraged them, to submit that information. To me, it’s an
insane breach of trust to then turn around and allow ICE access to that,” said
Clare Garvie, senior associate with Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and

On average, the FBI runs 4,000
monthly searches that claims to be 86 percent accurate. Although the use of
facial recognition has been banned in San Francisco and in Somerville, Mass, it’s
approved in 21 states with flexible requirements, including Pennsylvania, Texas
and the District of Columbia.

Both Democratic and Republican
legislators are speaking against the use of facial recognition for mass
surveillance, arguing that it is “error-prone” and carried out covertly.

“They’ve just given access to
that to the FBI,” Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the House Oversight Committee’s
ranking Republican 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.”

ICE refused to comment, only
saying its “investigative techniques are generally considered law-enforcement

Last month, Deputy Assistant
Director Kimberly Del Greco said the use of facial recognition in
investigations is vital “to preserve our nation’s freedoms, ensure our liberties
are protected, and preserve our security.”