Civil rights activists complain there’s potential for widespread abuse following confirmation that at least three states have scanned millions of driver’s license photos on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement without the drivers’ knowledge or consent.
Public records obtained by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology provided the first proof that ICE had sought such scans, which were conducted in Utah, Vermont and Washington.
All three states — which offer driving privileges to immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally — agreed to the ICE requests, according to documents shared with The Associated Press and first reported by The Washington Post.
ICE spokesman Matthew Bourke did not directly address written questions, including whether the agency used the scans to arrest or deport anyone.
At least two cases in Utah and one in Washington state appeared to involve immigration enforcement, but the vast majority of requests from ICE in Utah were from its Homeland Security Investigations division, which has a limited role in immigration enforcement. The documents for Vermont and Washington involved a handful of records. The Utah document obtained by Georgetown was a ledger with details on more than 1,800 cases spanning two years of requests from multiple agencies, including other states, the FBI and the State Department.
The use of facial-recognition by state, federal and local law enforcement agencies has grown over the past decade as an FBI pilot project evolved into a full-scale program. San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts, have in recent weeks become the first U.S. cities to ban the use of facial recognition by their police and city agencies.