“I’m not a criminal, so there’s really no reason for me to be in a criminal database.” That was James Shepherd, a Kentucky native and a roofer, after he was stopped by police under “suspicion of trespassing” at a Florida hotel. The officer on the scene asked to take his picture and ran it through Florida’s facial recognition database. Finding no matches, he uploaded Shepherd’s photo with the label “suspicious person.”
Florida is one of 26 states that use facial recognition software to verify identities of individuals who possess state ID photos or have their photos added by police, according a new report by The Washington Post. The Post report exposes how quickly systems created for one purpose can be coopted for other purposes. This should make those who support, in order to stop illegal immigration, the E-Verify national ID system contained in the Senate immigration bill consider what other applications authorities could find for the System.
E-Verify violates “a key principle of privacy”
The Senate immigration bill would create a centralized database with photos of every legal U.S. worker or potential worker. It does this by combining the Social Security database – names, addresses and Social Security Numbers – with passport and state ID photos (p. 1317). The bill incentivizes states to provide photos by offering hundreds of millions of dollars in exchange for making them accessible to the federal government (p. 1377).
This much alone violates what Robert Ellis Smith, publisher of Privacy Newsletter, calls a “key principle of privacy.” As Smith explains, “The principle is that information gathered for one purpose ought not be used for an incompatible purpose without consent of the individual.” In this instance, Americans never conceived their Social Security accounts or driver license photos would be used for immigration enforcement, violating the premise under which they handed them over.
Federal law actually recognizes this principle under the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which strictly limits how states can use photos compiled under the auspices of motor vehicle regulation (18 USC § 2721). But this bill explicitly states the DPA doesn’t apply in this case.