COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — This past week, the Ohio Attorney General’s office released the findings of its review of the state’s facial recognition system after a report that federal agencies may have been using systems in other states for surveillance.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in 2018 there were approximately 3,800 instances in which Ohio’s facial recognition system was used. Federal agency requests only accounted for 173 of those uses.
Back in July, an article in the Washington Post claimed the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were using some states’ driver’s license databases as “an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.” Yost tasked his staff with finding out if that was happening here in Ohio.
“The bottom line is, there were no dragnets, there was no mass surveillance,” Yost explained at a press conference Wednesday. “The things that were implied in that Washington Post story are not true as they apply to Ohio.”
Ohio’s facial recognition system is part of a larger database that law enforcement in the state has access to. By law, it can only be used for criminal investigations.
“Ohio’s system is done carefully, lawfully and with strict controls and regulations,” Yost said.
Those controls and regulations are so strict that the federal government didn’t even have direct access to the database. Instead, it had to request searches through the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations. Now, that will be the case for everyone wanting access.
“We’re taking the management back inside so that any law enforcement officer has a legitimate criminal justice purpose for facial recognition,” Yost said. “We’ll be able to process that request through BCI staff.”
Yost wants to put a training program in place before he allows Ohio law enforcement to re-apply for access to the facial recognition system to ensure that officers are not using it as the only step in identifying a suspect.