Ohio Using Driver’s Licenses To Identify Faces In Surveillance Images

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You've seen it on social media websites when facial recognition technology allows you to pick out your friends from hundreds of photos in a matter of seconds. Now, the Ohio State government can do the same thing, using Ohio drivers license photos as a way to recognize faces in surveillance videos. It's a program that was implemented nearly two months ago by the Ohio Attorney General Office, that scans databases with BMV photos and mug shots to find a facial recognition match.

"At any moment our faces can be searched and the government can know where we're walking…Whatever we're doing," said 2014 Candidate for Ohio Attorney General David Pepper. "If done the wrong way there real vulnerability for abuse."

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, DeWine said last week that he did not feel that the public needed to be notified about the launch of the program back in June because 26 other states have facial recognition databases. Now, two months after the launch, DeWine has created a task force of prosecutors and law enforcement officials to make recommendations for updated rules for the system's use.

The superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Investigation Tom Stickrath describes the program as a "test" for a future program that allows law enforcement to use to identify people who either refuse to state their identity or might not know their identity.

In the past law enforcement has had access to drivers license photos through The Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OLEG). Now, Stickrath says they're just using the photos in a different way.

"This is a step forward for law enforcement but in many ways it's just using the photographs that have been available to law enforcement in a more efficient way," said Stickrath.

As of right now, the City of Athens is not using any facial recognition technology during criminal investigations. However, Athens City Police Chief Tom Pyle says that when it comes to criminal acts like the robbery of Chase Bank last week, facial recognition technology could be a great tool to use.

"I think that as technology advances there's certainly the ability to identify or at least get an investigative lead through facial recognition software. It's just like a fingerprint, but now your fingerprint is your face," said Pyle.

Although surveillance video is one way to use the facial recognition technology, Stickrath says the state has had success using still photography with the program. Investigators in Northern Ohio found a photo near an abandoned, bloody baby stroller and used the technology to find the family involved with the investigation.

He added that any law enforcement that wants to use the technology must request access to OLEG in advance and sign an agreement that they will not abuse the system.

He says they plan to make more revisions to the program such as intensifying warnings, strengthening passwords and stronger agreements for users.