October 13, 2009

FBI Turns To DMV Photos In Criminal Hunt

The FBI is weighing options to utilize a biometric monitoring system that relies on driver's license photos to catch criminals.

According to the Associated Press, the FBI has been using a facial recognition system in North Carolina, where it has turned up at least one suspect "“ a double-homicide suspect named Rodolfo Corrales.

But Christopher Calabrese, from the American Civil Liberties Union, said the system poses a threat to privacy.

"Everybody's participating, essentially, in a virtual lineup by getting a driver's license," Calabrese told the AP.

In the case of Corrales, the FBI used facial recognition software to compare his image to millions of photos taken by drivers at the DMV in North Carolina. The software turned up several images, including one man, who called himself Jose Solis, suspected to be Corrales.

"Running facial recognition is not very labor-intensive at all," analyst Michael Garcia told the AP. "If I can probe a hundred fugitives and get one or two, that's a home run."

More and more, officials are turning to the use of biometric scanning.

On Sunday, the Observer reported that officials involved with the 2012 Olympics in London are installing new scanners that are capable of hand and iris recognition for workers.

"Ensuring the construction phase of the Games is safe and secure is a key part of our preparations for London 2012," Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell said.

The scanners will be able to process up to 5,000 people each hour, the Observer reported. Currently there are about 4,500 workers on-site, but that is likely to double by the end of 2010 during the "big build."

But in the case of North Carolina, Calabrese says that Americans should be concerned about their driver's license photo being used in a potential list of criminals.

"We're not interested in housing a bunch of photos of people who have done absolutely nothing wrong," Dan Roberts, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, told the AP.

There are state and federal laws in place to allow agencies to access the photos stored by the DMV, but the FBI is not allowed to collect and store the photos.

"Unless the person's a criminal, we would not have a need to have that information in the system," said Kim Del Greco, who oversees the FBI's biometrics division. "I think that would be a privacy concern. We're staying away from that."


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