Feds Track Americans With Facial Recognition, DMV Databases, Until Localities Fight Back

Nick Hankoff Comments

Congress is now looking into what federal agencies have done for years, using facial recognition technology and state databases to track Americans, all without the permission of any elected official or vote of the people. Real results for liberty, however, are happening at the local level.

The FBI and other US law enforcement agencies have access to at least 18 states’ databases of driver’s license photos. That’s over half the country’s population.

“Which elected official agreed to that?” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) asked FBI Deputy Assistant Director Kimberly J. Del Greco on Wednesday, during a hearing on facial recognition technology for the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The FBI agent couldn’t answer straightforwardly, because no elected official has OK’d any of this.

“There are no rules,” aside from very few exceptions, protecting the average American from being caught up in a facial recognition system notorious for false positives, according to Clare Garvie, a senior associate with Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology, told Massie.

This is the classic pattern of mass surveillance. No consent of the people is given, and while the Fourth Amendment goes ignored, the value-added in crime-fighting is dubious.

While it’s doom and gloom on Capitol Hill, there are prospects for liberty at the state and local level. Coverage by the Tenth Amendment Center shows progress being made in New York, Michigan, and California’s Bay Area, where San Francisco has banned facial recognition for public use. Berkeley and Oakland may follow suit, according to the Mercury News.

“I think we should ban face surveillance, which is the use of these technologies without any kind of individualized suspicion,” law professor Andrew G. Ferguson told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) during the Wednesday hearing.

“Seems to me it’s time for a time out,” Jordan agreed.

Those words are refreshing to hear, but the action is needed. Don’t count on Congress or even the courts to rein in the federal government anytime soon.

On a related note, it just came out that once again the National Security Agency was caught sweeping up Americans’ phone call metadata, despite the NSA claiming to have closed that loophole.

Artificial intelligence and other technological advancements are rapidly accelerating, making us all potentially vulnerable to mass surveillance and the abuse of it. Why make ourselves more vulnerable by depending on Congress or the next president to take action?

The most basic of freedoms will be lost in America if local communities don’t realize their strength and ability to nullify federal overreach.

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