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The California DMV wants to quietly implement a new software technology that has drawn heavy criticism from privacy groups

Although the state of California has major money issues and will close DMVs every Friday, it looks like the DMV is interested in using new facial recognition software that has drawn major concern from privacy groups.

The proposed five-year, $63 million contract allows the DMV to use computer software to compare an applicant's photo taken at the agency against other images in the DMV database -- in theory; it'll be used to help prevent identity theft against people who have a driver's license.

"What this would allow law enforcement to do is scan a crowd of folks, check that image against the database and have their names and addresses," said American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spokesperson Valerie Smalls.

Any time either state or federal government brings up biometrics, there is a collective groan from security experts, and this particular case is no different.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of California have joined forces with the ACLU to fight against the controversial software.

DMV officials said the police don't have "open access" to the database of drivers' information right now, and wouldn't suddenly have access to it if the DMV began using this software.  Currently, if a police officer need to look for a license holder's address or driving record, according to DMV officials, it must be requested through the DMV.

If the police wish to compare an image to the license database, they'll need to have approval before they'll have access to the system, the DMV said.

"We believe this new contract is in the best interest of the citizens; it is in the best interest of all of us," said Dennis Clear, DMV assistant director of legislation.

The contract is currently being fast-tracked and state officials could approve it as early as March, though controversy surrounding the contract and software will only continue to grow.  Critics are also concerned that it's being rushed so quickly, noting that the program can be funded while backers do not have to deal with public hearings.

All 25 million drivers in California could one day be included in the database.

Oregon, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado and Georgia already use similar controversial technology, with several other states interested in introducing the software.



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waiting for...
By MadMan007 on 2/6/2009 12:03:56 AM , Rating: 5
Waiting for a 'protect the children' fear tactic on this one.




RE: waiting for...
By barrychuck on 2/6/2009 12:45:45 PM , Rating: 2
There is no waiting. This technology is in use on the East coast. If you drive North or South on the East coast you will have your picture taken and a computer will compare that picture against the database. There is no point in debating, it's already in use. California is making the mistake to announce it to the masses. These cameras do not use a flash, can see in the dark, and are imune to most defenses. The only known way to defeat is to drive a completely opaque vehicle with camera vision for you to see where you are going.


RE: waiting for...
By Dreifort on 2/6/2009 2:06:51 PM , Rating: 4
That's why I drive everywhere wearing a mask.

I never have a problem except when I go into convince stores to get money out of the atm.


RE: waiting for...
By Spuke on 2/6/2009 3:26:27 PM , Rating: 1
RE: waiting for...
By Reclaimer77 on 2/7/2009 1:17:25 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
That's why I drive everywhere wearing a mask.


Are you off the deep end, or is California really THAT bad ?

I think you need to move out of Cali, and back into America man.


3 sides
By heulenwolf on 2/6/2009 9:59:33 AM , Rating: 2
I agree that there are three sides to this issue.

1) Where's the issue? I don't see the privacy issue in having a computer compare your old photo against a current one. Keep the machine running this software connected only to the camera at the photo counter. Potentially, its one more way to verify your identity without requiring you to dig up and bring in your birth certificate. The fact that power could be exploited for an unintended purpose if rules are broken isn't much of an argument, especially when that power is already in place. The DMV verifies identity and issues ID cards. Sure, oversight of how this technology is used is necessary. So, set up some reasonable rules and oversight. Similar processes are already in place for other technologies they use.

2) Waste spending? Why not simply display your old photo on the camera operator's screen when you walk up to the counter for your new photo? Then, they can perform the visual comparison themselves. Is this capability to base the comparison on some company's unknown, proprietary algorithms really worth $63 million?

3) Potential privacy issue, but not as explained: Every technology and algorithm has some false positive and missed negative rate. What are the processes for handling the situation where the algorithm says your face doesn't match and the operator or your other documents say that you are who you say? How is the case where there's a clear mismatch due to injury or plastic surgery handled? Do folks have to disclose to the gov't that they've had plastic surgery on their face? If so, how do they prove it? Even if they do prove that they've had surgery, that just means their face has changed and does not prove that their face used to look like the old photo. In short, this technology has practical limitations which mean it cannot be solely relied upon to pick out ID thieves.




RE: 3 sides
By Steve1981 on 2/6/2009 11:22:36 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
1) Where's the issue? I don't see the privacy issue in having a computer compare your old photo against a current one. Keep the machine running this software connected only to the camera at the photo counter. Potentially, its one more way to verify your identity without requiring you to dig up and bring in your birth certificate. The fact that power could be exploited for an unintended purpose if rules are broken isn't much of an argument, especially when that power is already in place. The DMV verifies identity and issues ID cards. Sure, oversight of how this technology is used is necessary. So, set up some reasonable rules and oversight. Similar processes are already in place for other technologies they use.


The problem as I see it (other than the other reasonable objections you state) is a bit of healthy paranoia.

Is the DMV using this technology for fraud prevention in and of itself bad? No, of course not. And as you say, if there are checks and balances on how biometrics are used in this regard, it isn't a real problem.

The problem surfaces if you consider that the government must at a minimum appear benevolent solely because the power in this country resides with the people. Biometrics alone won't change that; however, they certainly would provide a piece of the puzzle. So the question is, how many pieces of the puzzle do we want to give the government, and how many does it take to risk altering the balance of power that makes us free men?


When will they learn?
By mdogs444 on 2/5/2009 8:21:35 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The proposed five-year, $63 million contract allows the DMV to use computer software to compare an applicant's photo taken at the agency against other images in the DMV database -- in theory; it'll be used to help prevent identity theft against people who have a driver's license.

Let me get this right - Commufornia, who is $40B in deficit, and cannot even afford to send their tax returns back to the taxpayers, now want them spend $63M on something which most see as an invasion of privacy?

Communfornia...any wasteful spending is good spending. Anything to grow government, is good for the...masses?




RE: When will they learn?
By Regs on 2/5/09, Rating: 0
RE: When will they learn?
By Dreifort on 2/6/2009 2:09:34 PM , Rating: 2
I hear they have already contacted Snake Plissken as a backup plan if the face detection plan doesn't pass.


Hackers?
By Jmd442 on 2/6/2009 9:25:36 AM , Rating: 3
With the current climate of hackers getting into databases and security holes how long do you think it would take till the criminals have access. I would be willing to bet Motor Vehicle agencies would be a good target at this point.




Face detection on DT
By Dreifort on 2/6/2009 2:27:41 PM , Rating: 2
This technology would be nice on DT.... to keep ppl from having multiple accounts. :)

"Sorry, you face has been recognized, you are rating yourself up or the same person down again. Fail."




Wait...
By Wightout on 2/6/2009 3:30:08 PM , Rating: 2
Why do the NEED this tech?

Are we losing a lot of cash as it is from the way things are being done?

This is a heck of a time to put something this large on the plate of CA.




By steverussell on 2/9/2009 1:11:26 PM , Rating: 2
While privacy concerns of innocent citizens are always valid, and it certainly is necessary for people to be cognizant of data being held by government agencies, I actually think that this case is an excellent use of facial recognition technology.

To apply for and receive a DMV identification card, citizens are required to prove their identities often with 2 or 3 other pieces of information. Therefore, the only people who have real privacy in this situation are the fraudsters, criminals and identity thieves who resort to using fake information and documents and never reveal their true identity in official records.

Concerns that this type of biometric comparison may ultimately be used to track the general public in ways that genuinely impinge on privacy are legitimate, and ultimately I think serve to demonstrate why sensible, balanced surveillance policy and technology plays such a vital role.

I blogged some more about this topic recently -- check it out: http://tinyurl.com/c5r6t5.




What's the problem?
By PrinceGaz on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: What's the problem?
By phxfreddy on 2/5/2009 8:10:34 PM , Rating: 4
You need to take your rose colored googles off.


RE: What's the problem?
By PrinceGaz on 2/5/2009 8:26:45 PM , Rating: 2
+1 to you, that's superb. Serious kudos.

I do sometimes play devil's advocate here (and certain other places) to get a good topic going, so don't necessarily assume that what I post is what I truly believe. I'm all for face-recognition being used by the police generally to catch criminals, so long as law-abiding citizens are not on the database. I've done nothing wrong (copyright violation isn't really wrong in my book- it's just a technicality), and would therefore not be on the database or have my privacy violated by the technology.


RE: What's the problem?
By MrBlastman on 2/6/2009 11:11:27 AM , Rating: 2
Of course you would be in the database if you have a drivers license... No matter if you are a criminal or not - you will be able to be identified. That identification could then be used to tie you to a crime, or in some other way against you.


RE: What's the problem?
By Steve1981 on 2/5/2009 8:35:36 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
What's wrong with using face-recognition technology to ensure you are who you say you are. If you're not committing crimes, then you can only benefit from this technology. As they say, "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear".


If we have a perfectly benevolent government run by angels, this wouldn't pose a problem. Unfortunately, governments tend to be anything but...


RE: What's the problem?
By GaryJohnson on 2/6/09, Rating: 0
RE: What's the problem?
By Steve1981 on 2/6/2009 8:40:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
but where's the potential for abuse in this particular instance?


Assuming that checks and balances remain on the actual use of the system, not much. However, it doesn't take much imagination to see how this type of technology can be abused by a government.


RE: What's the problem?
By mindless1 on 2/7/2009 2:41:01 PM , Rating: 2
I take picture of you, hang picture on window while driving away from bank robbery where I was formerly masked. Cameras of course ID you if they do what they are supposed to, or maybe I have to go to the trouble of making a mask.

Either way, now they have "proof" you were there, cameras are more reliable than your friends or family that you'd normally spend time with, they have a reason to lie on your behalf.


RE: What's the problem?
By callmeroy on 2/6/2009 1:26:00 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
If we have a perfectly benevolent government run by angels, this wouldn't pose a problem. Unfortunately, governments tend to be anything but...


Hmm..you could have fooled me -- on innaugaration day, with the fuss made over Obama you'd think he was the seconding coming of the big man himself.....


RE: What's the problem?
By AlexWade on 2/5/2009 10:42:45 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
"if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"


The founding fathers would take issue with that. The United States was founded on preventing the fallacy of that argument.


RE: What's the problem?
By chmilz on 2/6/2009 11:41:44 AM , Rating: 2
I have nothing to hide yet I still own clothes, blinds, have a lock on my door, tinted windows in my car, passwords on my computer...

Why? It's called privacy. Just because I'm innocent doesn't mean I want others to scrutinize and dissect my life. I'd rather the world was anarchy than a totalitarian police state.


RE: What's the problem?
By Kougar on 2/6/2009 4:12:22 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. If all they are doing is comparing new photos to those already in their photo database, then what is the problem?

The DMV maintains a photo database regardless for future use. If someone was using my photo on a fake license then I'd like them to catch the person cold. All the article mentions is the DMV would use their own database, not some other outside agency or start a new one.


RE: What's the problem?
By Ray 69 on 2/6/2009 8:13:05 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
If someone was using my photo on a fake license then I'd like them to catch the person cold.

If someone was using your picture on a fake license they wouldn't need the DMV's photo database as the picture on the fake license wouldn't match the face of the person using it, unless of course he was your twin.


RE: What's the problem?
By therealnickdanger on 2/6/2009 10:05:01 AM , Rating: 2
A real problem is like the one we have up here in Minnesota. Illegal Mexicans are stealing (or forging) identities left and right and getting multiple DUIs, then when they get their license suspended and spend a night in detox, they go right back to the DMV and get a new license under a different name. With facial recognition software, these people could be flagged before being issued another license. The on-site staff could then do extra work to verify his identity... Not that our f*cked up system would ever deport him anyway, but at least he wouldn't get a legal license... but then obviously he could still drive and get booze... but whatever.


RE: What's the problem?
By murphyslabrat on 2/6/2009 11:11:33 AM , Rating: 2
Not sure if you're trying to illustrate the ludicrousness of using facial-recognition software, or seriously defending it.

In case of the latter, to do what you describe, they would have to get a new social-security number and a new birth certificate, both under their new name. Or, they would have to go through the immigration process all over again, obtaining a green-card under a different name (assuming the reproduction of all necessary Mexican documents).

In light of that, I would challenge anyone here to come up with a single instance where this technology would protect anyone, as it is proposed for the DMV.


RE: What's the problem?
By Aloonatic on 2/6/2009 4:19:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
"if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear"

Please post a blog of all of your bank statements and "private" correspondence for all of us to read. Someone will be around to put cameras in every room of your house which will be streamed live on the internet for all to see. Extra capacity for the bathroom toilet cams for the Japanese market will be catered for, do not worry.

Failure to comply can mean only one thing, you have something to fear. Probably because you are funding terrorism, witting love letters to Bin-Ladin and making bombs in your living room.

Please stay were you are the correct authorities will be around to pick you up, who will then render you to a friendly nation to have the truth persuaded out of you.

Whilst you are waiting, please take a look at our range of orange jumpsuits and shackle accessories. You have the right to remain fabulous, but that's about it.

As long as you have nothing to hide that is.


RE: What's the problem?
By grcunning on 2/6/2009 8:25:57 AM , Rating: 1
The Nazis would have absolutely loved this technology.
Because, as you mentioned

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Always trust the government, they have your best interest in mind.


RE: What's the problem?
By Reclaimer77 on 2/7/2009 1:25:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Nazis would have absolutely loved this technology. Because, as you mentioned


Yeah because people who rounded up and attempted to exterminate an entire race would really be interested in facial recognition...

/sarcasm


The ACLU!! ROFLMFAO!!
By Rob94hawk on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: The ACLU!! ROFLMFAO!!
By Rob94hawk on 2/6/2009 3:32:46 PM , Rating: 1
I know, the truth hurts sometimes, doesn't it?


Why would CA want to stop identity fraud?
By Beenthere on 2/5/09, Rating: -1
RE: Why would CA want to stop identity fraud?
By mdogs444 on 2/5/2009 8:27:26 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Why would CA want to stop identity fraud when a drivers license is so useful for obtaining illegal social services, employment, etc.?

Good question - especially when the mayor of LA has publicly advocated on behalf of illegal immigrants because ICE is cracking down on them and their employers...and San Fran is the most welcoming sanctuary city in the US.

That state is ass-backwards, and I can gladly say that I have no interest in ever setting foot on their soil.


By Spuke on 2/6/2009 1:12:28 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That state is ass-backwards, and I can gladly say that I have no interest in ever setting foot on their soil.
I agree and what makes it so hard to leave here is the diversity of scenery and weather. You can go skiing in the morning and lay out on the beach in the afternoon. You can go camping in the mountains at night and during the day take your off road toys out on the dunes.

You would think this place would be laid back but it's the total opposite. People are stressed out from working to pay for expensive housing, goods and services even in this market. And the politicians aren't interested in anything but taking more money from you.

I'd love to stay but not under these conditions. I could even put up with illegal immigration if the politicians weren't continuously trying to convince me that I'm supposed to support them and be happy about it.


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