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civil liberties


DMV responds to Councilmember Grosso's inquiry regarding facial recognition

Councilmember David Grosso, joined by Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, inquired with the director of the Department of Motor Vehicles about the department’s use of facial recognition technology and possible sharing of photographs or other biometric data with other local or federal government agencies or private parties.

“We are deeply concerned about the rapid advancement and use of facial recognition technology, which has serious implications for the civil liberties and welfare of residents of the District of Columbia,” the councilmembers wrote in a July letter to Director Gabriel Robinson.

According to a recent report from the Georgetown Center for Privacy and Technology, several states have allowed Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to run facial recognition software on the driver license or non-driver identity card photographs of individuals without regularized immigration status. Further, the Government Accountability Office published a report in June detailing the far-reaching program at the Federal Bureau of Investigations to scan photographs held by state-level agencies through facial recognition technology.

In his response, Director Robinson indicted that the DMV has not shared any photographs or biometrics with ICE and closely follow existing D.C. law which strictly limits who they can share information with. DMV has no formal agreements with any agency other than the Central Collections Unit regarding unpaid parking and moving violations.

However, they also state that they make no effort inform limited purpose license holders that they do not share info with ICE, something that is important for that community to be aware of as many may be fearful of obtaining a drivers license if they think it could threaten their status in this country.