Orlando Sentinel by Joey Roulette
July 12, 2019
Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI are among 17 federal agencies that have access to every Florida driver’s license through a massive facial recognition network, records obtained by the Orlando Sentinel show.
The network, called Face Analysis Comparison & Examination System (FACES), is maintained by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and accessed by 273 “partner agencies,” including Customs and Border Protection and the IRS, as part of an exhaustive push from police agencies to use facial recognition as a law-enforcement tool.
An agent can upload an image of an unknown person’s face to the program, which uses a face-matching algorithm to check it against a repository of about 25 million images — pulled from mugshot collections and every driver’s license in Florida — to produce a lineup of visually similar matches.
The recent development of face-scanning technology and its use of databases containing people who haven’t committed crimes has become a flashpoint for state and federal lawmakers, who say scant regulation and oversight make it ripe for civil rights abuses and breaches of privacy protections. Florida currently has no laws regulating police use of the technology.
“This technology is not being regulated by any policy and can be easily abused and exploited,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, told the Orlando Sentinel, adding that ICE’s access to the database is “incredibly problematic and concerning.”