COLUMBUS: Non-law enforcement personnel would have to obtain written permission from the head of Ohio’s criminal investigations agency before gaining access to technology that identifies suspects through facial-recognition matches with drivers’ license photos, under recommendations released Friday by a committee studying access to state databases frequently tapped by police.
The value of the technology should also be promoted to the public, such as its use to crack down on identity theft, according to the report from a task force convened by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
DeWine said he will implement all of the recommendations, including creating committees to monitor the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway, a database that gives police, court officials and others near instant-access to drivers’ licenses, vehicle registrations, the state sex offender database and computerized criminal histories.
DeWine convened the task force earlier this year after concerns arose about the unpublicized adoption of facial recognition software in June. He expanded the committee’s work to look at the entire gateway and issues around security and access rules.
“We take misuse of this search capability seriously,” DeWine said in remarks about the technology in August.
In other recommendations, the committee said DeWine’s office should create a policy to determine how long gateway search records are maintained. No time is mandated now. The panel also wants to see mandatory and standardized training for users of the gateway database, beyond general training new police officers receive.
The facial recognition technology has already been used hundreds of times since its introduction. Earlier this year, Ohio used it to conclusively identify a man for Indiana authorities who had four drivers’ licenses under four names, in part by matching an Ohio prison inmate photo.
Also Friday, a newspaper analysis said that hundreds of officers working for law enforcement agencies outside of the state have access to the facial recognition software.
A total of 26,500 people have access to the data, including more than 350 people who work outside the state, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Friday based on a review of records provided by DeWine’s office.
The majority of non-Ohioans with access are with the Pennsylvania state police and northern Kentucky police departments, the paper reported (http://cin.ci/17NHSe5).
About 1,030 people with access to the data are federal employees from offices both inside and outside Ohio, according to the report. They include one user from the U.S. Department of Education’s Chicago branch, one from the Defense Department’s finance arm and one who works in security in the State Department’s Missouri office. The Education Department official’s access relates to researching possible student loan fraud, said Lisa Hackley, a DeWine spokeswoman.
The ability of law enforcement personnel outside Ohio to access the software is not surprising given how closely the state works with counterparts in other states, Hackley said.