OneAmerica reassured that ICE did not “data mine” Drivers’ Licenses in Washington State

A sample drivers license from a Washington state YouTube video.

On Sunday July 7, the Washington Post and New York Times reported that ICE had made requests to Utah, Vermont and Washington State Licensing Departments to receive personal information for immigration enforcement purposes using facial recognition technologies.

In response, the Washington Department of Licensing issued a statement, describing what their records show: 

“DOL has implemented strict standards to ensure data is not released to any law enforcement entity for immigration purposes or without a judicial court order or subpoena. There is no external access to the Facial Recognition System. System access is limited to very few specially trained DOL staff. We take very seriously our responsibility to protect the data and information of all Washingtonians.” They also reassured that they do not collect information regarding a person’s immigration or citizenship status, do not collect place of birth, and does not provide Social Security numbers.

Thanks to strong advocacy and relationship-building among grassroots and government officials, protections and policies that the Department of Licensing has put in place over the last two years, including enactment of statewide legislation like the Keep Washington Working Act, should ensure that the Department will protect the data of all its residents.

Watch our interview with KIRO 7 news here, where our Deputy Director, Roxana Norouzi, shares the risk this causes for our immigrant communities. 

Rich Stolz, Executive Director of OneAmerica made the following statement in response to additional information made available by the Department of Licensing:

“The New York Times and Washington Post raised the right alarm about ICE’s use of facial recognition technologies, which raises serious issues with regard to the civil liberties of all Americans.  However, the reports did not investigate how states responded to requests from ICE. Data gathered by Washington’s Department of Licensing appear to demonstrate that the agency did not violate state policy, and it does not appear that the personal data of immigrants was compromised.  While this is reassuring, it is clear that ICE’s tactics continue to evolve, and they will go to any length to tear apart families without regard to basic rights and liberties.”

OUR CONCERNS

Although there does not appear to be another breach of trust as happened last year, we’ll need to remain vigilant in our work to protect families.

Facial recognition technologies raise serious civil liberties concerns

Even the FBI estimates that these technologies could be 10 to 20 percent inaccurate.  That’s potentially two out of every ten people inaccurately identified as suspects whose lives may be disrupted by a law enforcement investigation. Other research suggests higher rates of inaccurate identification for people of color and with darker complexions, raising serious problems with regard to civil rights and racial equity. Furthermore, we don’t know how the Government may choose to use this data once they have it, and there are inadequate systems in place to prevent the abuse of power presented by these technologies.

ICE’s use of facial recognition technologies is a dangerous escalation of enforcement.

ICE’s desire to use facial recognition technologies is yet another constitutionally questionable tool they are using to tear families apart.  Nothing prevents ICE from sorting images of people by race and ethnicity, profiling racial minorities as potentially undocumented immigrants, and inaccurately pursuing investigations that can significantly disrupt the lives of immigrants and citizens alike.  

WHAT WE NEED TO DO

Nationally, Members of Congress from both parties have echoed important misgivings about the use of these technologies, noting that their implementation has outpaced federal rules and accountability to communities.  Tell your Members of Congress to demand accountability.  Some corporations have delayed their adoption of these technologies due to concerns about accuracy, and the federal government, which is charged with protecting our constitutional rights, must do no less.

In Washington State, lawmakers came close to negotiating a deal in the legislature on broadly allowing facial recognition technologies as part of a privacy bill earlier this year. This news should cause those lawmakers to further consider the implications of wide adoption of these technologies without adequate protections in place.  Tell your state legislators that Washington State must rapidly implement the Keep Washington Working Act, and that further analysis of how facial recognition technology may be misused is necessary before adopting policies that may spread their adoption.

In your communities, demand that law enforcement agencies comply with the Keep Washington Working Act and urge your City Council Members to reject adoption of facial recognition technologies without adequate community engagement or attention to how data may be misused in a manner that would exacerbate racial inequity in our criminal justice system.

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