Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services has exchanged information, including facial recognition research, about the residents of the state with immigration authorities, according to a request for open records.

Between September 2017 and last June, the department processed more than 250 requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies “to collect and share information about hundreds of immigrants living in Georgia,” stakeholders said Wednesday.

The Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Project South and Innovation Law Lab said the department met ICE’s requirements “with no evidence of requirement” based on the data received.

“I find it alarming that the driver services department doesn’t even need evidence, administrative warrants, arrest warrants or imprisonment before handing over vital information such as location and image licensing,” said Priyanka Bhatt, a lawyer for Project South said.

“It is also alarming that Georgian law is so broad that this is possible,” said Bhatt. “Law enforcement or ICE don’t even have to have a valid reason to get this information. They need a supposed belief that illegal activity may be taking place, and that’s such a terribly low bar.”

ICE was sued on allegations that it failed to provide records of data collection, including facial recognition research, and the agency said it was unable to comment on pending litigation.

But the agency said it “does not routinely use facial recognition technology to enforce civil immigration”.

“ICE’s use of facial recognition technology is primarily used by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents who investigate child exploitation, human trafficking and other cases investigated by HSI special agents,” the agency said. “HSI’s work to combat sexual exploitation and trafficking of children online has been widely recognized by law enforcement agencies around the world, and facial recognition technology is vital in identifying the perpetrators of these crimes.”

The Georgian Department of Driver’s Services said it is providing data to law enforcement agencies in response to specific requests related to law enforcement issues. However, ICE has neither requested access to the Georgian driver’s license database nor provided DDS.

Vân Huynh, Community Counsel at GLAHR, said the type of information the department shared with ICE included where people lived, information about their driver’s licenses, photos, vehicle information and documents submitted when applying for licenses.

The group also found three requests for information on facial recognition software.

They wrote in a statement that in one case, an officer sent multiple photos found on a person’s Facebook page to the department. The agency then runs these images through their facial recognition software.

Huynh said that beyond privacy concerns, facial recognition software is not always accurate, especially when it comes to people of color, and that this could lead to false positives.

There have also been incidents of ICE wrong where it arrested or wrongly arrested US citizens, she said.

“The likelihood that ICE will be wrong looking for information from people who are US citizens is also a great way to access that information, I believe,” Huynh said.

Georgia does not provide licenses to undocumented immigrants, but the searches would largely be for citizens and individuals with legal status, as well as DACA recipients and those seeking relief in immigration procedures, Said Huynh.

Ariel Prado, Defend Asylum’s program director at the Innovation Law Lab, said there were also many stories of immigrants jailed for things like a much older DUI on their file and despite a clean file since then.

Georgia is the youngest state to share information with immigration authorities after several other driver license agencies worked with ICE on previous records.

Last month, the Washington Post reported that ICE was allowed to conduct facial recognition searches for millions of driver’s licenses in Maryland without first obtaining state approval in a state that grants undocumented immigrants special driver’s licenses.

A senior Maryland official told lawmakers in November that ICE had logged nearly 100 meetings in the state’s database since 2018, according to an unpublished letter from the newspaper.

In July, inquiries for public records indicated that ICE had requested data in at least three states that also offer driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in Utah, Vermont and Washington. Utah and Vermont complied with these requests and it was unclear whether Washington went through the searches.

“There has been a lot more outrage from lawmakers and officials at how broadly ICE is using the databases without the public’s knowledge and without restriction,” said Huynh.

Prado said with some states discussing the extension of driving licenses to undocumented immigrants that “reform efforts should be made to ensure people’s privacy is protected”.

“This is something we want people to be aware of,” he said.