Federal access to Utah driver licenses prompts privacy concerns

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A bombshell article from the Washington Post is triggering concern in Utah.

It states the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had access to driver license information and logged more than 1,000 facial-recognition searches between 2015 and 2017 in Utah.

“It’s probably a tough time for undocumented immigrants in general with ICE being more aggressive than they have been in the past,” said Matthew Tokson, Associate Professor, University of Utah Law School.

Tokson says this isn’t only a concern for undocumented immigrants. The practice of facial recognition prompts privacy concerns for everyone.

“I think it’s more of, do people feel that this harms them in some way or potentially harms them? Do people feel as if their privacy is being violated? Then it seems appropriate for the legislature to take action.”

The Utah Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Driver License Division, says 1,900 requests were made by local and state, not just federal law enforcement agencies, and only 49 percent of them by ICE.

Ten percent of them of those searches resulted in a positive hit, according to DPS.

“Whenever they do even one scan, my understanding is that scan is of every face in the database and they just go until they get a match. It’s not just suspects. They scan all of us,” Tokson explained.

“Is facial-recognition constitutional?” asked ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.

“The supreme court hasn’t really weighed in on issues of facial recognition yet. That’s something we’re looking at down the road,” the professor replied. “Just because it doesn’t necessarily violate the constitution doesn’t mean it’s a good thing or something we don’t want to address with legislation.”

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