CLEVELAND – Today, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called on Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to pull the plug on a controversial facial recognition program after a Cincinnati Enquirer investigation revealed that it was launched without his knowledge, without proper protocols to govern its use, and without informing the public.
At a press conference this morning, DeWine acknowledged the existence of the program, admitted that he should have told the public sooner, and announced the formation of an advisory group to suggest protocol changes.
“The time for press conferences and advisory boards was months ago,” said ACLU of Ohio Associate Director Gary Daniels. “This system needs to be shut down until there are meaningful, documented rules in place to keep this information secure, protect the privacy of innocent people, and prevent government abuse of this new tool.”
Records obtained by the Enquirer show that the system was initially vulnerable to hackers and that members of DeWine’s own team were both confused about who authorized its launch and concerned about how the public would react.
Previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search the state database of license photos and mug shots. Now, police officers and even civilian employees can use a simple photo to search these databases for names and contact information. They have already performed 2600 facial recognition searches using the new system.
“DeWine seems to be arguing that the government would never knowingly misuse these kinds of tools,” said Daniels. “But in the last six months alone, we’ve seen numerous examples of the government doing exactly that.”
“Without specific limits on what government can do with this technology, its use will inevitably and eventually spread to Ohioans who are not criminal suspects.” added Daniels. “This is not speculation. It is a foregone conclusion when government thinks of law enforcement first and its citizens’ right to privacy last.”