Science & Technology

Face Time

Mug-shot matching


In August, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed that his office had quietly been using facial recognition software for more than two months to match driver's license photos with police mug shots. The Bureau of Criminal Investigation, a branch of DeWine's office, reportedly performed 2,677 facial recognition checks based on information submitted by law enforcement agencies, though it's not clear how many matches were made.

Confronted with public concern, DeWine promised to create a commission to develop protocols for using facial recognition technology. He has since expanded that panel's role to examine all information-sharing by Ohio law enforcement.

Even before Ohio's move, The Washington Post reported that state driver's license databases containing the photos of 120 million Americans were already being used as digitized mug shots to compare to crime scene photos. Safeguards on the use of the images, to the extent that they exist, vary from state to state.

The FBI promotes facial recognition as part of its Next Generation Identification initiative, but the reliability of the technology-and the likelihood of false positives-remain open questions. DeWine promises that misuse of Ohio's database will be a fifth-degree felony. But he's said nothing about compensating people dragooned into lineups and mistakenly identified as criminals.