Georgia Drivers Agency shares biometric, biographical data searches with immigration officials

Georgia's Department of Driver Services has provided sensitive information such as biometric facial recognition searches to authorities including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), NBC News reports, citing an open records request.

Advocacy groups claim the department received over 250 requests from ICE and other agencies between September 2017 and June 2019. The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Project South and Innovation Law Lab accuse the department of processing the applications without requiring additional evidence of illegal activity, a warrant or a detainee.

“It is also alarming that Georgia law goes so far as to allow this,” Priyanka Bhatt, a Project South staff attorney, told NBC News. “Law enforcement or ICE don't even need to have a really good reason to get this information, they need the alleged belief that unlawful activity may be taking place, and that's such a terribly low bar.”

A lawsuit was filed against ICE after the company was accused of failing to release data collection records.

“ICE's use of facial recognition technology is primarily used by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents investigating child exploitation, human trafficking, and other cases investigated by HSI special agents,” the agency told NBC News. “HSI’s work to combat online child sexual exploitation and human trafficking is widely recognized by law enforcement agencies around the world, and facial recognition technology is critical to identifying the perpetrators of these crimes.”

The agency did not comment on the lawsuit, but added that it “does not routinely use facial recognition technology for civil immigration enforcement.”

Georgia's Department of Driver's Services confirmed that data is sent to law enforcement when a request is made, but denies ICE requesting or granting the department direct access to the driver's license database.

According to GLAHR, the department released details of addresses, photos, vehicles and documents that residents provided when applying for a license. The advocacy group claims ICE has sent at least three requests to process images with facial recognition software, citing as an example Facebook photos that an officer would send for matching.

GLAHR raised concerns not only about privacy, but also about alleged bias and false positives that led to people being detained.

Undocumented immigrants cannot get licenses in Georgia; However, the searches would affect citizens and those with legal status.

Georgia is not the only US state with a record of providing information to immigration authorities.

According to the Washington Post, ICE is using facial recognition searches for Maryland driver's licenses, including those of undocumented immigrants, without seeking permission from the state.

Since then, a bill has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly that would require ICE to obtain a search warrant to access the Maryland Image Repository System (MIRS) to conduct facial recognition searches.

Public records confirmed that ICE requested data in Utah, Vermont and Washington. Utah has also proposed limits on access to facial image databases provided by state agencies to the FBI, ICE and other federal agencies.

Article topics

biometric data | Biometrics | Driving license | Face recognition | ICE CREAM | Privacy | United States