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Rutherford Institute Launches Inquiry Into Government Use of Drivers’ License Photos to Build Facial Recognition Database, Track Citizens

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For Immediate Release: September 5, 2019

The Rutherford Institute

CHICAGO, Ill. — Pushing back against the expansion of secret government surveillance programs at the expense of individual privacy, The Rutherford Institute is asking the State of Illinois to disclose information about its participation in the federal government’s scheme to establish a massive facial recognition database by collecting the drivers’ license photographs of millions of Americans.

In a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made on behalf of Illinois resident Dmitry Feofanov, The Rutherford Institute is seeking details about the federal government’s facial recognition program, which allows government agents to track citizens whenever they are in public. The request comes after it was disclosed in July 2019 that the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have mined information kept by state DMVs to create a massive database of biometric photos and personal information without the consent of citizens.

“Surveillance, DNA and biometric technologies have become convenient tools in the hands of government agencies to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “For a long time, the government was required to at least observe some basic restrictions on when, where and how it could access someone’s biometrics and use it against them. That is no longer the case. While the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent government officials from tracking a person’s movements or searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause—evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot—the founders could scarcely have imagined a world in which we needed protection against widespread government breaches of our privacy on a biometric level.”

MAKE THE GOVERNMENT PLAY BY THE RULES OF THE CONSTITUTION: SUPPORT THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM
Facial recognition programs, which can be used to identify people in photos, video, or in real-time, employ sophisticated technology to identify individuals using their faces. Advanced cameras scan a person’s features and then compare the “biometric” data obtained with a database of biometric photographs to determine the person’s identity. Law enforcement currently use mobile devices to identify people during police stops.

The FBI’s Next Generation Identification system has dramatically expanded the government’s surveillance capacity by using a variety of photos and other biometric data, cross-referenced against the nation’s growing network of surveillance cameras, to not only track people but create a permanent “recognition” file on them within the government’s databases. However, the government’s capacity to track citizens is dependent on its database of biometric photographs of identified individuals.

In an effort to expand the government’s database, federal law enforcement agencies, and the FBI and ICE in particular, have been obtaining the photographs and associated identities of persons from state agencies that obtain biometric photographs in connection with issuing drivers’ licenses. According to the Government Accounting Office, since 2011, the FBI has conducted over 390,000 facial-recognition searches of federal and local databases, including state drivers’ license databases. Federal investigators have also established ongoing working relationships with state licensing officials. In its FOIA request to the Illinois Secretary of State, which is responsible for issuing drivers’ licenses in the state, The Rutherford Institute is seeking to know the extent to which the state has disclosed residents’ drivers’ license photographs to any federal or other government agencies.

The Rutherford Institute’s FOIA request is available here.

This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, defends individuals whose constitutional rights have been violated and educates the public about threats to their freedoms.

Source: https://bit.ly/2kwOwIv

Victory: Oklahoma Moves to Enact Law Accommodating Religious Objections to Biometric Photo Requirement on Drivers’ Licenses

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RutherfordHeader_2This press release is also available at www.rutherford.org.

May 18, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Spurred on by a lawsuit filed by attorneys for The Rutherford Institute, the Oklahoma State Legislature is poised to enact a law that protects individuals from being forced to violate their religious beliefs by submitting to a biometric photograph as a condition of obtaining a driver’s license.

The Institute’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of Kaye Beach, a Christian, against the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety (DPS), asserts that requiring a biometric photo requirement as a condition of obtaining a driver’s license violates Oklahoma’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Unable to renew her driver’s license because of her objection to the biometric photo requirement, Beach has been deprived of common benefits and services that hinge on possessing a valid driver’s license, including the ability to acquire prescription medications, use her debit card, rent a hotel room or obtain a post office box. Upon being signed by the governor, the new law, S.B. 683, would require that the DPS issue a nonbiometric driver’s license to anyone raising a religious objection to the biometric photo and destroy any biometric images of the residents held by the DPS. In April 2016, Oklahoma’s Court of Civil Appeals reversed a lower court judgment against Beach and reinstated her lawsuit.

“Whether a person views a biometric ID card in the form of a driver’s license or other government-issued form of identification as the mark of the Beast or merely the long arm of Big Brother, the outcome remains the same: ultimate control by the government,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “As Kaye Beach’s case makes clear, failing to have a biometric card can render you a non-person for all intents and purposes, with your ability to work, travel, buy, sell, access health care, and so on jeopardized.” More

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