ACLU Sues MassDOT for Facial Surveillance Use Records

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation over the agency’s use of the driver’s license database for face surveillance.

by Kristin LaFratta, MassLive.com / July 11, 2019

(TNS) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation over the agency’s use of the driver’s license database for face surveillance.

The ACLU, with global law firm Ropes and Gray LLC, says that since 2006, MassDOT has used its database of photographs from state-issued IDs for face recognition searches. In a statement, the Mass. chapter of the ACLU said it had filed two public records requests to MassDOT in February and April requesting information on how the Mass. RMV uses and shares its technology and database. The agency has not responded to either request, the organization said.

This Massachusetts city just passed a facial recognition technology ban

The facial recognition technology has been criticized as invasive and inaccurate in ways that lead to "false positives," especially with women of color.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a new report by the Washington Post, which revealed that federal investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have used state Department of Motor Vehicle databases as “a facial-recognition gold mine, scanning through hundreds of millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent."

Reports confirm that MassDOT has helped federal agencies before. The Boston Globe reports that in 2015, MassDOT received 258 requests to scan the RMV’s photo database. The newspaper said of those requests, 72 were from federal agencies.

A bill introduced on Beacon Hill, supported by the ACLU, would establish a statewide moratorium on government use of facial surveillance and other biometric screening technology until legislators pass regulatory measures.

“When you go to get a driver’s license, no one tells you that you’re also entering your face into a surveillance dragnet,” Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “People expect to be able to go about our lives without every move being tracked by the government. But face surveillance technology gives the government unprecedented power to track who we are, where we go, what we do, and who we know. Massachusetts must ensure face surveillance technology doesn’t get out ahead of our basic rights."

©2019 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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