Smile, You’re in a Criminal Database


Turns out that driver’s license photos are useful for more than acute embarrassment. States, realizing they have a de-facto visual database of most of their residents, are increasingly plugging those photos into facial-recognition software and Facebook to solve crimes — and worrying privacy advocates in the process.

A total of 37 states now use facial-recognition software to tag driver’s license photos in their records, according to a recent Washington Post survey. Most allow federal, state and local authorities to search the databases with few restrictions.

Police say the databases are becoming an invaluable aid in solving crimes, allowing them to quickly compare a photo from Facebook or a surveillance camera with official records and potentially make an ID.


But for privacy advocates, the technology is emblematic of a disturbing trend where identification techniques once applied only to criminals now apply to society at large, raising prospects that universal ID will become a reality before we know it’s there.


“As a society, do we want to have total surveillance?” Laura Donohue, a Georgetown University law professor, asked the Post. “Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals wherever they are . . . without any immediate probable cause?…A police state is exactly what this turns into if everybody who drives has to lodge their information with the police.”

(via Washington Post)

Image credits: Photographs by OregonDOTMrazvan22, and Quevaal

  • kshapero

    That is so funny. What the hell is a privacy advocate? Because I want them fired. We haven’t had any privacy rights in years!!

  • nameless

    I don’t do crime, so there’s no reason to be worried. Besides, I’m don’t live in the US.

  • procentje20

    Ah, and then false positive happen.s Good luck with that.

  • 9inchnail

    ““As a society, do we want to have total surveillance?”

    ““Do we want to give the government the ability to identify individuals
    wherever they are . . . without any immediate probable cause?”

    Well, if you ask Obama and most other world leaders, you can guess what their answer is gonna be. But hey, it’s all just to our best, to protect us. Privacy is a small price to pay for (the government’s) safety.

  • 9inchnail

    You don’t live in the US? I got news for you. PRISM primarily spies on foreign countries, not the US. Still not worried? You ok with government agents reading your emails to your wife? Listening to phone calls to your doctor? That’s all cool with you? Then you’re just the corporate ant western society has been trying to breed for the last decades.