Who Likes Your Lousy Driver's License Photo? The Cops!


Reason 24/7

We've long since realized that any datum surrendered to a government body will soon be spread far beyond its original collection point and used by bureaucrats and agents for brand-new purposes — some of them entirely at odds with assurances given when the information was originally gathered. So it is with driver's license photos, now digitized, which have become the nation's largest collection of mugshots. Police officers with blurry photos of malefactors, Facebook snapshots, or random images are now running them through facial recognition software and comparing them to that great shot taken of you at the DMV when you were nursing a combination hangover and low-level rage at the last clerk you dealt with.

From the Washington Post:

The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver's-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations.

The facial databases have grown rapidly in recent years and generally operate with few legal safeguards beyond the requirement that searches are conducted for "law enforcement purposes." Amid rising concern about the National Security Agency's high-tech surveillance aimed at foreigners, it is these state-level facial-recognition programs that more typically involve American citizens. …

But law enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities.

Such open access has caused a backlash in some of the few states where there has been a public debate. As the databases grow larger and increasingly connected across jurisdictional boundaries, critics warn that authorities are developing what amounts to a national identification system — based on the distinct geography of each human face.

The Post reports that 26 states now allow police to comb through photo records with facial recognition software — usually without any debate over the policy. Another 11 states have the capability, but don't allow (yet) such searches.

As driver's license records become an effective means of attaching a face to a name and address, let's not forget that police officers, tax collectors and other government employees have an unfortunate history of misusing databases for revenge, personal gain, or simple creepiness.

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  1. Penis!


    1. Do you want to work in a record store warren?

      1. Damn the man, save the Empire!

  3. are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations.

    As I posted before in the 24/7 post, I’d be impressed if that’s all they used it for. But I’ll bet you that they’re used just as often by cops trolling for hot chicks they encounter during patrol.

      1. Someone who might actually get fired if they got caught doing that?

        1. So, anyone but public servants.

        2. Someone in the private sector. Interesting theory…

  4. How are they supposed to do their job of crime prevention if they can’t control us in every way? Well?

    1. #WINNING

  5. You know, this shit never happened when Lucy Steigerwald was writing for Reason…

    1. I’ll drink to that!

  6. Too bad most driver’s license photos look nothing like the holder.

    1. They don’t have to – as long as the cops got a name to put to the crime they’re happy.

  7. The state loves its databases.

    1. Luckily, they are really bad at maintaining and mining them. Be thankful for small mercies.

      1. The bigger it gets the more mismanaged the SQL scripting becomes?

  8. If you haven’t done anything wrong then you have no reason to worry about government officials being able to pull up your personal information at any time for any reason or possibly just because of a false positive.

    1. So this is a bad time to bring up that I’m not the evil twin? And I’m first by SSN and alphabetically?

      1. But you have to goatee!

        1. I have a Van Dyke, making me my own evil twin

  9. The movies and cop dramas have been showing the state doing this for at least all of my adult life. The TOP MEN are just trying to be thorough so Hollywood is accurately portraying them.

  10. Idiot San Franciscans can’t find a place to rent:…..html?_r=3&

    Why? Because of all the idiotic laws they have.

    1. One day, after the sledgehammer incident, the tenant flooded his apartment and submerged a plugged-in appliance into an overflowing sink, shorting out the electrical system. We were lucky a fire didn’t start and burn down the block.

      Um, yeah, I don’t think that’s how fires start or spread.

    2. Anyone that calls an apartment a “flat” should be immediately shot and drowned. Or drowned and shot. Whichever order you prefer.

      1. Shot, then drowned. Then shot again. There is no point in drowning him a second time given he is already dead.

    3. In my (SF) half block, 19 units have been removed from the rental market in the last 15 years.
      Most of the owners would self-identify as ‘liberals’, but somehow the grief of ‘rent control’ just got to be more than they wish to deal with. Not that they oppose other people having to deal with it…

      1. You live in San Francisco?

        No wonder you’re so angry. I think it’s about time for you and Mizzus Sevo to head out to the country.

        1. General Butt Naked| 6.17.13 @ 11:00PM |#
          “You live in San Francisco?”
          “No wonder you’re so angry.”
          The anger has to to with shithead and shreek; beautiful this evening in SF, and Ms Sevo and I have engaged legal help to avoid most all of SF’s penalties.
          But we both appreciate your concern.

          1. Well, you still shouldn’t let a couple of know-nothing assholes get to you.

            Glad you’re having an enjoyable evening.

          2. THEY AREN’T REAL

            1. Shrike and tony are too self contradictory and stupid to be pseudonyms for sock puppets.

      2. It’s like when pro-high-tax types use shelters and other strategies to save money.

  11. First off, these programs are racist. Apparently facial recognition programs don’t work on black people, so this program unfairly targets whites and Asians (whose ability to obtain a driver’s license at all should be debated on a separate thread).

    Secondly, the only time you hear about someone being disciplined (not terminated, mind you but reprimanded) for trolling these is when it’s a cop looking at a female cop and sending her pic around the station house.

    And finally, fried chicken.

      1. Racist software? END CAPITALISM NOW!

        1. Sevo family went on guided China tour and found another couple with whom we were comfortable for dinners and seating on the buses. We’re white, they were (and I presume still are) black. The guy’s bigger than I am (which is pretty big) and older than I am (which is pretty old). We stop in the Forbidden City to allow Ms Sevo and Ms X to hit the can; he mentions he’s surprised at the variety of Chinese people; when he was growing up, he thought they ‘were all the same’.
          I recovered from laughter and then he gets it and starts laughing.

    1. so “they all look the same” is really true? RAACCCCIIIST

      1. Ooops.
        Upthread comment intended here.

  12. Ugh! How can anyone fucking stand living east of the Mississippi?

    1. The Mark of Gideon.

    2. No one from Ohio would be allowed to hold a driver’s license in the great state of Montana.

      1. News: they got roads in Montana

        1. You didn’t build those.

  13. The bureaucracies of law enforcement agencies are staffed by some who are not there just to keep the chairs warm and collect a check, but also by those ninnies and assholes who insist on actually doing stuff. One possible solution to this socially destructive behavior is to make make the DMVs and police stations switch personnel. You will never have to worry about someone originally employed at the DMV doing more than the bare minimum and still be paid, while the cops who are forced to switch to a job where their authority exist only in an ugly ass cement building, well they will be practically suicidal. I don’t see a down side.

  14. shockingly Michigan, crappy state that it is, doesn’t appear to use the photos. Or have car pollution tests or drunk driving roadblocks.


    2. The lack of DUI road blocks is one if my favorite parts. And not just because I have gin coming out of my pores.

      Btw: finished nano zombie. Pretty fun story, funny knowing a lot of the locations.

    3. Unfortunately Arizona, which otherwise has a stellar DMV, does. The plus side is that here your license is good from age 20ish to 65 without needing renewal.

      I don’t think any facial recognition program is going to be able to link the 225 lb current me to the 133 lb 20 year old me.

      1. Then can just follow the trail of crumbs.

      2. Don’t you also have border stops on east/west interstates, far from the border?

        Granted, ICE/border patrol claims all of MI, but I’ve never seen them do a stop (away from the immediate area of the crossing).

        1. No more or less than any other state along the border with Mexico – state cops don’t run those, CBP and DHS do.

          As an example, between Tucson and San Diego there are two such stops – both in CA. There’s 150 miles between San Diego and the AZ border and about 400 between Tucson and the CA border.

          1. “No more or less than any other state along the border with Mexico – state cops don’t run those, CBP and DHS do.”

            Right, which is all shitty.

            Also, interstate stops, right?

            1. Yeah, there’s 2 long term checkpoints on I-8 between Yuma (where I live) going west and one going East and San Diego. Well maybe one westbound one now, I heard one was closed.

              I’ve never seen one between the eastern border of AZ and Yuma on I-10, just patrols.

              Actually you know what, I don’t remember ever seeing one on I-10 from Florida to the western border of AZ (I’ve traveled that path a lot) so I guess AZ has *fewer* BP checkpoints near the border than “liberal” CA does.

              1. Despite what you here coming out of our insane legislature, outside of Maricopa county most (state/local) cops don’t give a fuck about your immigration status.

              2. The only one I’ve seen on is just east of Yuma. All the one around here (Tucson) are on all roads heading south.

        2. Although I see ICE police cars on the Detroit roads all the time, I’ve never seen one pull anyone over, let alone set up a roadblock anywhere. And one of my routes home after work is past two of their lairs (Jefferson Ave., for those keeping score).

          I’m assuming there are no roadblocks because illegal Canadian immigrants don’t look different, and mostly don’t sound different, so it’s not as much fun to troll for them.

          1. Same here. I see border patrol on i96 most of the way to Lansing, but never saw anyone pulled over. The one in New Hampshire (or Vermont?) where they pulled someone over for driving too carefully makes me nervous, though.

      3. The law here in ax does state that you need to update your picture every 10 years though. At least you don’t have to apply and pay for a new license

        1. Az… I need to get back to a proper keyboard after vacation

  15. This is one of the reasons I’ve held that driver’s licensing and vehicle registration are not legitimate state functions.

    1. Apparently the original purpose of Driver’s licences were to get money.

      1. Well that’s par for the course for *any* government licensing scheme.

    2. of course it was the Germans

      Up until the start of the 20th century, European authorities issued licenses to drive motor vehicles similarly ad hoc, if at all.[1] The first locality to require a mandatory license and testing was Prussia, on September 29, 1903. The Dampfkessel?berwachungsverein (“steam boiler supervision association”) was charged with conducting the tests, which were mainly concerned with the driver’s mechanical aptitude.[1] In 1910, the German imperial government mandated the licensing of drivers on a national scale, establishing a system of tests and driver’s education requirements that would serve as a model for the licensing laws of other countries.[1] Other countries in Europe also introduced driving tests during the twentieth century, the last of them being Belgium where, until 1977, it was possible to purchase and hold a license without having to undergo a driving test.[2]

      1. It’s hard to believe that the Germans, of all people, were so concerned with identification papers.

        1. Papieren, bitte!

        2. Grandparent is slightly incorrect, the Austrians introduced mandatory driving ability tests a few years before the Germans.

          A driver’s license in Germany is not an identification paper. German driver’s licenses are unsuitable for ID as they are valid indefinitely, and do not contain address information. A German who got his license back in 1960 can still use it today, with the same old picture from 1960.

      2. I got a driver’s license in Texas in 2005 without taking a driving test. My dad just signed that he had taught me to drive (which of course he had).


    What the hell is gong on in Brazil?

    1. Soccer!

      1. Last I checked soccer did involve police and tear gas

        1. then you’re doing it wrong

        2. *did not. I guess it does though.

    2. why does the video have no pause?

      1. So you can’t pause.

      2. There are plenty of videos with paws.

    3. Too bad there isn’t something called 24/7 news here where I could read about it.

  17. My wife, a non-libertarian, has always argued that drivers’ licenses are national identity cards (and have been for years) so libertarian protests against the concept were sadly out of date. I guess she was right after all. The horse has already left the barn…

    1. If you’re out for a walk, and a cop asks for your ID, but you don’t have any on you, is it a crime (yet)?

      1. Asking “is it a crime” is not the same as asking “will you beaten, falsely arrested, or even killed for not having it”

        1. good point.

      2. Not yet, but it’s not really possible to open a bank account without a government issued (and thus federally conforming) ID. Without a bank account, good luck getting paid in whatever line of work you have.

        If you do manage to run a cash operation make sure you keep excellent records and don’t leave the house with too much of it, less you find your cash imprisoned via asset forfeiture.

        But yeah, we live in a free country and a Democrat is in the White House, so it’s all good.

        1. I live in an area where you need 2 proofs of address and a signature from a “professional who’s known you 2 years” to get an ID card. You need an ID card to get a passport.
          I met a guy who was born in Canada, but his parents moved to Hong Kong for 15 years. When he came back, he was unable to get ID because of the 2 year rule.

          1. After all my cards had expired, and I tried to get a new state ID, I found it to be quite tedious.

            I needed two proofs of address, and a cell phone bill didn’t count. I had 2 roommates with all the utilities in their names (I ended up getting a landline for a few months and writing a “lease,” just to make this work).

            Then I needed proof of citizenship, and I did have my birth certificate. Secondly, I needed my SS card, which I didn’t have. In order to get your SS card you need your ID…luckily to solve this catch-22 the DMV will accept a letter from the SSA stating that X name matches X SSN.

            It was an insane pain in the ass. To top it off, the reason I did all this was because my restaurant was moving towards putting our CC tips on paychecks…3 years later this will finally be implemented July 22.

  18. Couldn’t the photo be used for voter ID? (Except Amish)

  19. Chad Johnson freed after apologizing to government masters. Promises to never forget his place again and will make all the appropriate bows and reverent gestures to the King and His Men in the future.…..zing-judge

    You’ll hsve to pardon me while I throw up.

    1. Has he retired yet?

    2. Dude, I’m a skinny white boy and would gladly do 30 days in broward county (yes, it’s one of the worst shitholes in the US) rather than apologize.

      On the other hand, I’d never be given probation for head-butting my wife.

      So there’s that.

      1. Well, this isn’t a man known for principles. He still wants to play in ball again, so he isn’t likely to purposely rankle any feathers.

        The whole situation and all the fucking authority worship, it just makes me sick.

        1. You definitely see the important human hierarchy in action here.

          regular person:Celebrity::government agent:celebrity

          See, now that I think about it, I’m starting to wonder if he got the 30 days not because he truly offended the court, but because he was let off light and flaunted it. I mean, he split his damn wife’s head open and got a couple months of probation. It’d be a like a traffic cop letting you off with a warning after doing 75 in a 25, then you yelling “PIG!” as he walks back to his car.

          1. If the judge had simply said that she felt his plea bargain was inappropriate in light of his criminal actions this wouldn’t even be a conversation. As it is though, she felt slighted and offended and thus used her discretionary power to “teach him a lesson.” This isn’t unlike the case of the girl giving the judge the finger.

    1. Owl may “grab” cat, but owl ain’t going far. Lift/drag ratio.

  20. seriously mann — its is now getting to the punt where you cant go nowhere with the governemnt fucking espying on you man — they now where you sleep and where you eat and where you fuck man —

    1. Dude, if the government takes over the espys…oh man, that’ll be the last straw, man.

  21. Naked News looking for writer.
    It’s still a thing?

  22. I have been reading about facial recognition software for years now. Does anyone here have any actual experience with it? As in; know how often it throws up false matches? How user sensitive it is?

  23. Back in the late 1970s I shared an office with a guy who collected and tacked to the wall newspaper-published police sketches of fugitives who sort of looked like me.

    It seems less funny how than it was then. Perhaps I’ve lost my sense of humor.

  24. OT…..ers/633871

    “As a white, straight, middle-class, able-bodied, cisgender woman, I know that because of the myriad privileged identities that I hold, the attacks I receive often pale in comparison to others.”

    and yet……I am not those other people! I am me! and goshdarn it, people should like me!

    1. how you doin?

      1. just a tad drunk, how are you?

        1. I have half a beer left. I think I’m going camping tomorrow.

    2. I’m not going to bother RTFA there, but attitudes like that show that we shouldn’t even be concerned about shit like NSA eavesdropping.

      As long as we are rich enough to have communications that can even be monitored by the NSA (cell phones, email, Skype, etc.), we should just be happy with what we have and focus all of our efforts on helping other become more prosperous taxing the shit out of those with even more stuff.

  25. Stupid cops are stupid lol.

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