Can the Green Light bill protect against facial recognition mining?

NY driver's license.
NY driver's license.
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Can the Green Light bill protect against facial recognition mining?

Reports revealed the FBI had been mining state driver’s license databases with facial recognition technology, prompting concerns about New York’s new Green Light law.
July 11, 2019

Reports earlier this week that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been mining state driver’s license databases with facial recognition technology prompted concerns that New York’s new Green Light law, which allows undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses, could leave such applicants vulnerable to the practice. Citing reports on the issue, Melissa DeRosa, a top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo – who already had reservations about the law – seemed to suggest she had doubts that personal information in DMV databases would be safe. 

As the legislation’s sponsor, state Sen. Luis Sepúlveda, and immigrants rights groups told The City, the Green Light law protects against ICE officials accessing the Department of Motor Vehicles database without a judicial warrant, subpoena or court order. Ari Ezra Waldman, a professor at New York Law School and director of the school’s Innovation Center for Law and Technology, agreed. “The law pretty clearly states that you need a warrant,” Waldman said, adding that law enforcement officials would not be able to perform a broad facial recognition scan of the DMV’s entire database of photos. “If ICE had access to the New York DMV – or any state DMV databases – that would be an enormous problem.”

Still, the warrant requirement isn’t a promise that personal information won’t be accessed on an individual basis. “In real life, sometimes judges give out warrants like they’re toilet paper,” Waldman said. “So while protection is in there, we also have to recognize that the process of obtaining a warrant is not as restricting or as much of a gatekeeper as we hope it is.”

For the rest of today's tech news, head over to First Read Tech.

Annie McDonough
Annie McDonough
is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.
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