COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich raised concerns Friday about the use of new facial recognition technology on Ohio driver’s license photos, but stopped short of criticizing state Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office has been using it for nearly three months.
The governor apparently mistook a reporter’s question to apply to the potential use of the technology by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles itself as he launched into criticism of government using technology to watch its citizens.
“We have not moved forward with our Bureau of Motor Vehicles to operate that technology…,” he said. “You know, I am concerned about the level of government knowledge about everything about us. I have concerns about the NSA [National Security Administration]. I have concerns about not using a FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] court. I have concerns about an overzealous group of people that are violating their own rules that have been established.”
Mr. DeWine earlier this week confirmed that his Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation threw the switch to go live on June 6 with a newly built database containing Ohio driver’s license photos upon which facial recognition software is used on behalf of law enforcement.
The program digitally compares facial images captured by security cameras, outdoor surveillance cameras, and cell-phone cameras to attempt to match them with database photos.
Ohio, however, has yet to implement the technology at the motor vehicles bureau for its own purposes.
“When it comes to this issue, there’s value in it, but I want to slow down and get this right, and I want to work with the leaders in the legislature,” Mr. Kasich said, referring to BMV use. “I understand the issue of law enforcement. It’s important. As to when we would move on facial recognition with driver’s licenses, it’s an open question right now.”
Mr. Kasich made the comments immediately after an event marking new payroll-withholding rates that reflect a new income tax cut. Later, he clarified his position via email to draw a distinction between the attorney general’s program and a potential BMV program.
“Current law allows law enforcement officers to use driver’s license photos to help identify and catch criminals, and we understand that many of them use the attorney general’s facial recognition technology to help them analyze those photos,” he said. “The attorney general and I have discussed his procedures, and he has indicated to me that he is conducting a review to help ensure that citizens’ rights are safeguarded. I completely agree with that and commend him for it.”
Mr. DeWine considers the program to be a technological expansion of law enforcement’s existing authority to access license records. But he admitted Monday he probably should have gone public with it earlier than later.
“It’s very disconcerting that, as of two weeks ago, neither the attorney general nor the governor seemed to have any clue what was happening with this technology in Ohio,” said David Pepper, Mr. DeWine’s expected Democratic opponent next year.
“Who’s in charge of this state?” he asked. “…I do agree with the governor’s indication that he does understand, far more than DeWine, that this does have implications on individuals’ privacy and liberty interests.”
On Thursday, Mr. DeWine followed through with his promise to name a task force to make recommendations to ensure the database isn’t abused to invade Ohioans’ privacy.
Among the nine members are former Ohio Supreme Court Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Yvette McGee Brown, two county judges, a county prosecutor, county sheriff, county coroner, a local police chief, and a representative of public defenders. None is from northwest Ohio.
Absent is a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union. It asked for a spot on the panel after criticizing Mr. DeWine for moving forward with the program without having privacy protocols in place.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.