Georgia driver’s agency shares biometric, biographical data searches with immigration officials
Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services has delivered sensitive information such as biometric facial recognition searches to authorities, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), reports NBC News citing an open records request.
The department received over 250 requests from ICE and other agencies between September 2017 and June 2019, advocacy groups claim. The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Project South and Innovation Law Lab accuse the department of processing the requests without asking for additional proof of illegal activity, a warrant or a detainer.
“It’s also alarming that Georgia law is so broad in allowing this to happen,” Priyanka Bhatt, a staff attorney of Project South, told NBC News. “Law enforcement or ICE doesn’t even need to have an actual valid reason to obtain this information, they need an alleged belief that there might be unlawful activity happening and that is such a horribly low bar.”
A lawsuit was filed against ICE following accusations that it did not release records on data collection.
“ICE’s use of facial recognition technology is primarily used by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents investigating child exploitation, human trafficking and other cases that HSI special agents investigate,” the agency told NBC News. “HSI’s work to combat online child sexual exploitation and human trafficking has been widely recognized by law enforcement agencies around the world, and facial recognition technology is critical to identifying the perpetrators of these crimes.”
The agency did not comment on the lawsuit, but added that it “does not routinely use facial recognition technology for civil immigration enforcement.”
Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services confirmed delivering data to law enforcement if a request is made, but denies ICE requesting or the department providing direct access to the driver’s licenses database.
According to GLAHR, the department released details about addresses, photos, vehicles and documents residents provided when applying for a license. The advocacy group claims ICE sent at least three requests to process images with facial recognition software, and gives the example of Facebook photos an officer would send to be matched.
GLAHR expressed concerns not only about privacy, but also about alleged bias and false positives that led to people being detained.
Undocumented immigrants do not receive a license in Georgia; however, the searches would process citizens and individuals with legal status.
Georgia is not the only U.S. state identified to be delivering information to immigration services.
According to The Washington Post, ICE use facial recognition search on Maryland driver’s licenses, including licenses of undocumented immigrants, without asking approval from the state.
A bill has since been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly asking ICE to obtain a warrant to gain access to the Maryland Image Repository System (MIRS) to run facial recognition searches.
Public records confirmed ICE had requested data in Utah, Vermont and Washington. Utah has also suggested limitations to facial image database access provided to the FBI, ICE and other federal agencies by state authorities.