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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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RE: What's the problem?
By Steve1981 on 2/5/2009 8:35:36 PM , Rating: 4
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
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
If we have a perfectly benevolent government run by angels, this wouldn't pose a problem. Unfortunately, governments tend to be anything but... 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.....

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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