Cops Can Search Databases With Photos Of 120 Million, Many Never Arrested


The faces of more than 120 million people in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver's-license fraud increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices, and innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations, the Washington Post reports. The facial databases have grown rapidly in recent years and operate with few legal safeguards beyond the requirement that searches are conducted for law enforcement purposes. Amid concern about National Security Agency high-tech surveillance aimed at foreigners, state-level facial-recognition programs more typically involve American citizens. Law enforcement use of facial searches blurs boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in perpetual digital lineups. Advanced systems allow police searches from laptop computers in patrol cars and offer access to federal authorities. Louisiana state Rep. Brett Geymann, a conservative Republican who fought creation of such systems, says, “Here your driver's license essentially becomes a national ID card.”

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