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Michigan Bill Would Provide Protections For Biometric Data, Nullify Facial Recognition Database

LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 25, 2017) – A bill introduced in the Michigan House would establish reasonable protections for residents relating to facial recognition and biometrics technology. The legislation would not only safeguard privacy rights in the state, it would also effectively block a small but intrusive practical effect of federal spying within the state.

House Bill 5395 (HB5395) was introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.). The legislation would mandate that biometric information be destroyed immediately after an individual is identified. It would also protect juveniles from having their biometric data collected, and keep any of this data from being transferred to federal databases.

While this legislation would only bind state agencies and not the federal government, HB5395 will help protect Michiganders from one practical effect of federal spying.

IMPACT ON FEDERAL PROGRAMS

The FBI maintains the largest facial recognition system in the country. Known as Next Generation Identification Interstate Photo System (NGI-IPS), it contains some 25 million state and federal criminal photos, mostly mugshots shared by state and local law enforcement agencies. Photos remain in the system even if a court never convicts the individual of a crime. It remains unclear what other types of photos end up in NGI-IPS. The FBI face recognition unit (FACE Services), along with police in seven states, can run photos against the FBI database.

The FBI’s FACE Services not only runs facial recognition searches against its own database, it can also access a massive network of databases that include 411.9 million photos. Perpetuallineup.org describes the shocking breadth of FBI facial search capabilities.

Over 185 million of these photos are drawn from 12 states that let the FBI to search their driver’s license and other ID photos; another 50 million are from four additional states that let the FBI to search both driver’s license photos and mug shots. While we do not know the total number of individuals that those photos implicate, there are close to 64 million licensed drivers in those 16 states. In 2015, the FBI launched a pilot program to search the passport database. It remains unclear if the system can access the entire 125 million passport database or just a subset.

In a May 2016 report, the Government Accountability Office reported that the FBI was negotiating with 18 additional states and the District of Columbia to access their driver’s license photos. In August, the GAO re-released the report, deleting all references to the 18 states and stating that there were “no negotiations underway.” The FBI now suggests that FBI agents had only conducted outreach to those states to explore the possibility of their joining the FACE Services network.

At least a quarter of all U.S. law enforcement agencies currently have access to face recognition databases. According to the report, “at least 26 states (and potentially as many as 30) allow law enforcement to run or request searches against their databases of driver’s license and ID photos. Roughly one in two American adults has their photos searched this way.”

Additionally, state and local law enforcement agencies regularly provide surveillance data to the federal government through ISE and Fusion Centers. They collect and store information from cell-site simulators (AKA “stingrays”), automated license plate readers (ALPRs), drones, facial recognition systems, and even “smart” or “advanced” power meters in homes. Requiring warrants to gather such data would undoubtedly limit the amount of information collected by state and local law enforcement. Information that doesn’t exist cannot be shared with the feds.

HB5395 is a good first step towards throwing a monkey wrench into the machinations of Big Brother.

WHAT’S NEXT

HB5395 now moves to the Committee on Judiciary where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.