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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 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
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.

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