Face Recognition software could put your driver’s license photo to criminal database


Almost every local, state and federal agency in Florida has access to your driver's license picture in a database used to catch criminals.

Without your knowledge or permission police routinely search your photo along with 33 million other faces looking for terrorists, criminals and suspects using face recognition technology.

CBS 12 Investigates discovered it doesn’t stop there.

Privacy rights experts are outraged that police can track your every move on social media and even at protests.


Earnestine Bowe of West Palm Beach was shocked to hear how her new driver’s license picture is being used.

We talked to her outside of the West Palm Beach office of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Bowe said, "I didn't know. You all just gave me some new information. Wow! That's wrong!"

Clare Garvie is well aware of the government’s ability to track your every move.

She's with the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center.

Garvie just spent the past year researching law enforcement's face recognition computer programs.

Florida has the most advanced and wide sweeping program in the country.

The center also ranked Florida as one of the top offenders of violating your privacy.

Garvie said, “Half of all U.S. adults are in a criminal face recognition network because they got a driver's license."


The face recognition system was created without permission from state or federal lawmakers.

There are no laws to curtail how this powerful tool can be used.

We asked the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and Homeland Security to talk to us about the face recognition program.

Both declined, however, CBS12 Investigates discovered a video made for Homeland Security employees back in January.

It shows how Palm Beach County agents are helping the federal government search for Florida residents nationwide.

A spokesperson in the video says, “We use it daily on a multiple different fronts and we are only going to use it more as we go forward."

That could mean tracking people on social media and protests, but the sheriff's office says it "will not confirm or deny how this program is used."


Clare Garvie fears face recognition technology could be used to track locals who protest the president while he's staying on Palm Beach because it's already happening in other cities.

CBS News discovered law enforcement used face recognition technology to track protestors in Baltimore during the 2015 riots.

"We know this is a very real risk, and the risk here is that people are going to start feeling uncomfortable about participating in public demonstrations, said Garvie, “The first amendment protects this type of behavior, and it is so integral to having open public dialog in this country."

Even after talking to Ernestine Bowe outside the D.M.V. for several minutes, she was still in shock that her picture is being used by the police without her knowledge.

She said, “It's not an American thing to do. I feel like that violates my rights.”

The Center on Privacy and Technology believes face recognition is a good tool, but warns safeguards need to be put in place or we will never know when or how big brother is watching us.

Click here to see the complete report done by the Center on Privacy and Technology and read their recommendations to the federal and Florida Legislatures.

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