Maryland and Utah consider restricting ICE use of facial recognition on drivers license databases

Maryland and Utah consider restricting ICE use of facial recognition on drivers license databases

A bill has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly which would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to obtain a warrant to gain access to the Maryland Image Repository System (MIRS) to run facial recognition searches, VentureBeat reports.

The state began issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants in 2013, State Senator Clarence Lam says for the purpose of ensuring cooperation with law enforcement and the consistent application of driver testing and training standards.

“There are real benefits, and we’ve encouraged people to do so, and yet the state has opened up this information to searches by federal immigration officials. And as I mentioned, particularly given the privacy argument, this does impact all Marylanders, because all of us are subject to this virtual police lineup, where federal agencies can go through and submit a photo and run it against any of our pictures that we have on our driver’s licenses,” Lam said, per VentureBeat.

Lam has sponsored Senate Bill 649, which directs the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to deny requests that do not include a warrant from a federal or state court. Another state senator expressed concern that reducing cooperation with federal agencies could prompt retaliation by the federal government, after an appellate court upheld the federal government’s ability to withhold benefits to states in a suit brought by New York State over a ban on Trusted Traveler program renewals.

ICE has likely been using a 2012 memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Maryland Department of Public Safety and the federal Department of Justice to gain access to the photo records. The Washington Post has reported that ICE searched a Maryland driver’s license database for immigrants on multiple occasions, and has also done so in Utah and other states.

Utah has joined Maryland in proposing limitations to facial image database access provided to the FBI, ICE and other federal agencies by state authorities, local outlet Fox 13 Salt Lake City writes.

Senate Bill 218 proposes that the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) require specific training, including on implicit bias, for all employees using facial recognition. It also would require requests to be submitted in writing, with information on how the sought individual is linked to the crime being investigated, which must involve a felony, violent crime or threat, or a person who cannot otherwise be identified. The bill would block the system’s use for civil immigration violations, matches must be confirmed by another person, shared results must be encrypted, and prosecutors must be informed of the technology’s use.

Notably, the Maryland Senate Bill was proposed by a Democrat, while the Utah Bill was tabled by a Republican.

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