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Ohio’s facial recognition program has potential for misuse, say critics


After more than a year after the Ohio government rolled out a new facial recognition program designed to help state law enforcement officers better detect suspects, many say the system can still be potentially misused.

Developed by Optimum Technology, the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway is an online database that allows Ohio law enforcement agencies to share criminal justice information on criminal histories (including mug shots), evidence submissions, missing children, gangs and protection orders, in an effort to solve and prevent crime.

The system drew its share of criticisms when it was first offered in early June of 2013, causing government officials to introduce new safeguards that would heighten security and limit access to the system.

As part of the new safeguards, Attorney General Mike DeWine appointed a task force that recommended limits on which individuals could access the software, as well as monitoring when it was being used, and increasing security measures to prevent hackers from breaching the system.

DeWine spokeswoman Lisa Hackley said that most of these recommendations have been implemented in the last year. This includes lowering the number of people who can access the facial recognition software from 26,500 people last year down to 5,100, as of May 31.

Still, Mike Brickner, senior policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said he is concerned that by allowing more than 5,000 people to access the software, it is likely that some people will misuse the system for their own gain.

He suggests that access should be limited to only a few officers in each police department, adding that other states like Kentucky that use facial recognition software have these same safeguards in place.

Since its launch, almost 550 local agencies around Ohio have used the system approximately 8,500 times. The software has successfully identified at least one homicide suspect, according to DeWine’s office.

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