back to article FBI and immigration officials trawling US driving licence databases for suspects

The FBI and American Immigration and Customs officials are using facial recognition software to scan states' driving licence photograph databases to look for suspects and possible witnesses. There is no formal process to apply for access to individual states' databases, and in some cases getting their mitts on the snaps …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Now is perhaps the time

    to start poisoning the databases. Get lots of pictures of random objects - from paperclips to paperbacks, from partridges to possums, anything but your real image, out there on the social media. All of course labelled with your name.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: poisoning the databases

      Too obvious mate. You need to be as subtle as they have sneaky. What you need to do is run your picture through a transformation so that it still looks like you to a human eye, but will completely escape any "AI" loveliness they throw at it. You know those fun apps which can morph one persons face into another over "x" steps ? Just set x to 100 and send in the 10th pic in the series.

      Or something like that.

      Of course I write this, as if it's not been done already. The really clever bad guys would have already done it. Maybe advised by people like me, who got fed up of seeing the good guys piss away the valuable advice we kept giving them .......

    2. Cynic_999

      Re: Now is perhaps the time

      Alternatively upload a million genuine images of yourself, tagged with random IDs.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Now is perhaps the time

        There is of course the downside that you'll end up getting picked up for all sorts of 'crimes', until the police realise that your name comes back almost every time they try and check an ID.

  2. bjr

    How is the different from a wanted poster?

    I don't think there is a 4th amendment issue here, your face isn't considered private because you expose it to the world everyday. A wanted poster accomplishes something similar, in that case it's humans who do the facial recognition not machines. If someone recognizes a person on a wanted poster they notify the authorities who then take further investigative action. In the case of using facial recognition software to scan driver's licenses it's essentially the same thing, i.e. the computer is given the picture of the wanted person and scans through the photos looking for a match. If a match, or matches, are found the next step would be to hand it to a human who will make a determination if further investigation is warranted. The facial recognition match is not going to be used as evidence in a court case, it's no different from a tip that's phoned in and it's no different than scanning through the goverment's fingerprint database.

    The use of this technology is something the states will want to limit. The states have competing interests that they need to balance, catching criminals and maintaining safe roads. Making sure that all drivers on the roads are qualified, even criminals and illegal aliens, is probably higher priority than using drivers licenses to identify criminals, but that's a determination that each state will have to make.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: How is the different from a wanted poster?

      The situations are reversed.

      In the wanted poster example, a single image of a person or group of people who already have enough evidence behind them to proceed to further action is used.

      In the driving license case, images of every driver are being checked to see if there's anything worth going after.

      1. bjr

        Re: How is the different from a wanted poster?

        It's exactly the same thing, they are comparing a picture of a wanted person to their database of photos, in the case of a wanted poster they are using the memories of thousands of people instead of a computer. They aren't searching through the database for people who look guilty, they are trying to find a specific individual.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: How is the different from a wanted poster?

          I think the real concern is how well trained the officials are in the likely unreliability of the facial recognition. If a human witness calls in and says they think the saw a person who matches a wanted poster, pretty much every law enforcement official knows to treat it with suspicion. They are taught in basic training that eye witnesses are unreliable so they will go in knowing they probably need further evidence.

          But few will have had training on machine facial recognition. They will only have the information produced by the marketing people and what they see on TV, where, of course, it's almost instant and always 100% accurate. This could well lead to going in far more heavy handed because the suspect has "definitely" been identified. And that's before we even start looking at the large numbers of false positives where innocent citizens are stopped and questioned out of all proportion to the numbers of suspects identified.

          Here in the UK (and I assume elsewhere) the Police employ a few "super recognisers", people who seem to have an uncanny ability to recognise a face months or years after seeing a photo of them just once. They'd love more people like that on the books. But I wonder what the results would be if they placed one of these people next to one of the Met Police Facial Recog Trial CCTV vans an compared the results, having both got the same "watch list" to check against?

        2. Anonymous Coward

          Re: How is the different from a wanted poster?

          > It's exactly the same thing, they are comparing a picture of a wanted person [ ... ]

          No it is not. From the El Reg Article That You Did Not Read:

          Searches are not limited to criminal suspects but can include potential witnesses and bystanders.

          Yes, there are 4th Amendment problems here. One of them being probable cause.

          The Feds can't just pick a phone book at random and ask for a search warrant for everyone in that phone book in the hopes that they'll find someone who did something.

          And in this case they aren't even bothering with obtaining the warrant.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: How is the different from a wanted poster?

      > The facial recognition match is not going to be used as evidence in a court case,

      No it's just going to light up a flashing red light in the face of every gun-totting cop when anybody (p>0.95 black) walks past.

  3. Blockchain commentard

    320-odd million people in the USA. How do the FBI have double that in mugshots? Do they have all of Canada and South America as well?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Presumably counting the side views aswell.

      The system does have a very good record of identifying any criminals who appear on CCTV looking straight at the camera against a white background of horizontal lines and while holding a board with their name on

    2. Gonzo wizard

      FBI Mugshots

      I wondered about this for a moment and then remembered that your photo is taken when you enter the USA, along with your fingerprints. So that'll probably account for a significant percentage of the extra head shots.

      1. Blockchain commentard

        Re: FBI Mugshots

        So as soon as you enter, they treat you like a criminal. Good for the tourist trade !!!

        1. MrKrotos

          Re: FBI Mugshots

          Yip, and my friends think it is crazy that I will never go there for that very reason.

        2. The Central Scrutinizer

          Re: FBI Mugshots

          There are some places I'd love to visit in the US, but with all the aggressive border protection in place, is it really worth the effort anymore? Even perfectly innocent US citizens get treated like criminals on their way back in.

          1. BuckeyeB

            Re: FBI Mugshots

            I've never been treated like a criminal and I leave and reenter the country 2-4 times a year since 1990.

  4. Danny 2

    Holiday romance, askance

    A few years ago I searched for the American girl who gave me my first good sex, and up pops her police cell mug shot. Apparently it was legal for them to repost police mugshots and request a fee for them to be taken down. She hadn't even been charged with a crime, she was just in a car where someone else had a small amount of cannabis.

    Not a civilised nation.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Holiday romance, askance

      America has regressed to developing nation status.

      Not even joking.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Holiday romance, askance

        >America has regressed to developing nation status.

        So just turning it off and on again ?

    2. julian.smith


      Home of the free!


  5. BuckeyeB

    So many have been caught just by someone looking up their Facebook profile and finding out where they are. I have no problem with facial recognition. I would think only the guilty have something to worry about.

  6. Grinning Bandicoot

    If they're not after you, it is paranoia

    Upon the renewal of my drivers license last year I was required to produce a birth certificate. Now having federal ID from an agency of the DHS and many previous licenses the new license was issued based on the birth certificate typos and all. If this takes place 0.001% of the renewals, the concept of secure drivers license (read as internal passport) becomes a farce as it creates new identities. Scanning licenses would provide multiple names and addresses for the same body if the system IDed 100% correctly. hah! GIGO still remains in action. Most cameras are more sensitive in the red and near inrared frequencies and are basically blind at the blue end so can this be used to spoof the system in a similar way the 10 meter band effects the police radars (S band).

    Having read of the LAPD data breach, a relatively well funded bureaucracy, how will this play in places of grandiose visions and a peanut budgets; the personal data deluge awaits.

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