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Georgia DDS and Facial Recognition Program

Posted by Sean A. Black | Jun 20, 2013 | 7 Comments

A recent news article addressed an aspect of the expanding surveillance state that many people may not have considered.  The Washington Post had an article about how state photo identification databases can be a tool for police.  Specifically, we are talking about driver's licenses and state photo identification cards.  With the growth of technology, the personal information and photograph are held in a computer database when you obtain such a card.   The driver submitted to the photograph as a means of showing that the individual was qualified to operate a vehicle or to prove their identify for a variety of civil activities.

These databases are now being re-purposed by law enforcement for use in criminal investigations.  Sophisticated facial recognition software can now be used to compare images quickly to narrow down possible identities of crime suspects.  The technology is not yet as reliable as fingerprint technology but that may change as time goes by.  It may also be improved as states begin to capture higher resolution images at the time of the card issuance.

I am involved in a case where this technology was used to identify that a person may have  previously been issued a license under a different identity.

Georgia law allows police access to a driver's record and personal information maintained by the Department of Drivers Services in connection with a criminal investigation.

Such identifications are not definitive but can certainly bring law enforcement attention to people who did nothing more than comply with the state's requirements for issuance of a driver's license.

Current technology allows patrol cars to be equipped to read the license plates of all vehicles passing near the patrol car and provide registration information on the vehicles and any suspended or revoked status or alerts connected to the vehicle. Facial recognition technology will someday be able to scan and identify persons passing near the camera just as quickly and provide the same type of access to information about the person.  The current level of technology is not quite so sophisticated.

Some states have these databases but restrict them from being used by law enforcement.  As we consider the privacy concerns associated with government monitoring of telephone and email communications, some consideration should be given to the use of facial recognition technology across databases amassed for quite another purpose.

Sean A. Black is a Northeast Georgia attorney who handles an array of serious criminal defense issues.  We are available for consultation on federal and state law offenses.

About the Author

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.


Alan Ross Reply

Posted Apr 10, 2015 at 16:26:12

Sean, I have a young man I have supported for years who is working thru the DAPA program since he has a daughter born here. Of course, he, like so many others had a Ga dlrivers licensed with his picture but under another name. Will the GA facial recognition at DDS pick up on that when he applies for a Ga license after DAPA documents. I am trying to offer him guidance. Thanks, Alan Ross.

Sean A. Black Reply

Posted Apr 12, 2015 at 14:32:23

I have had two cases in the last five months where individuals have become legal to be in the country after having been in the country illegally and having obtained false identification. Georgia DDS facial recognition has identified them, led to an investigator contacting them, followed by their confession and then followed by their arrest and prosecution. However, so far, prosecutors have been willing to handle the cases in a reasonable fashion.

Steve Plemons Reply

Posted Jan 22, 2018 at 12:12:08

Will the Georgia drivers license facial recognition system show a warrant in the state of Tenn

Sean A. Black Reply

Posted Jan 22, 2018 at 12:40:49

To my knowledge, a criminal records check is not routinely done at the time of application for a Georgia license. Unless you are committing license fraud, the information that you are providing could be used to check your criminal history without the necessity of using facial recognition software.

Devon J Reply

Posted Dec 27, 2018 at 23:44:23

How are citizens protected from false accusations due to faulty facial recognition? Is this common. Honestly, if the technology used in law enforcement is anything like my iPhone, which can’t tell the difference between my fifteen year old son and myself, then innocent people could find themselves in a world of trouble!

Sean A. Black Reply

Posted Jan 02, 2019 at 04:59:14

My experience with this particular program is that the facial recognition simply alerts the investigator to a subject of investigation. This is followed by efforts to interview the subject and to verify other information.

The accuracy of these devices depend on the number of correlations made, much as with fingerprint and DNA identification. The fewer the points of matching, the less accurate the overall matching will be.

Sean A. Black Reply

Posted Oct 28, 2019 at 05:21:03

Unfortunately, this technology was not exactly contemplated at the time of the Bill of Rights. It is hard to plug it directly into our current constitutional views of the limits on government, let alone private companies. They have captured images from people who are present in public. There is not a constitutional bar on this activity. It is up to Congress and state legislatures to place appropriate limitations on it or ban it. Only a few have taken it up so far. Instead, many states seem to be trying to figure out how law enforcement can use the technology.

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