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.