Panel: Ohio facial recognition technology needs limitations

Law enforcement advisory group endorses restrictions


COLUMBUS — Access to Ohio’s new facial-recognition technology that now includes a database of all Ohioans’ drivers license photos should be more restrictive than access to fingerprint and other databases, a special task force recommended Friday.

“Nonlaw enforcement agencies should not have access to [Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway] facial recognition technology without the express written permission of the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation,” the OHLEG advisory group said.

In June, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office went live with the expanded facial recognition database. The program can be used by criminal justice agencies to compare facial images caught by security and surveillance cameras, cell phones, and other means in hopes of finding a match to identifying a suspect, dead body, or victim.

After the program became public knowledge two months later, the Republican attorney general convened this task force to examine not only the facial-recognition program but broader security concerns about the online search portal. Mr. DeWine on Friday reiterated his intention to implement the recommendations.

There’s also a need for public education, the report said.

The panel consisted of former Ohio Supreme Court Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Yvette McGee Brown as well as representatives of local law enforcement and the courts.

The report calls for a steering committee to monitor the gateway and an advisory group to serve as that committee’s sounding board. It calls for standardized training for users of the system, tracking of its use, and random audits to look for signs of misuse. Abuse of the system is a fifth-degree felony carrying six months to a year in prison.

Panel member Dan Jones, administrative counsel to the Ohio Public Defender’s office, recommended giving members of the public the ability to access their criminal record information within those databases. They could then take steps to correct any inaccuracies, much as people can now do in reviewing their credit reports for errors.

Mr. DeWine’s expected Democratic opponent in next year’s election, former Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper, recently made his own recommendations for tightening the system’s security. Mr. Pepper proposed separating the facial recognition program from the gateway and limiting access to it to a select few.