Dmv End Run Threatens Our Privacy
By Richard Holober Executive Director Consumer Federation of California
On January 14th the California Department of Finance notified the JointLegislative Budget Committee that it plans to issue a new vendor contractfor the Department of Motor Vehicles for the production of California
Driver’s Licenses and ID cards starting in June of 2009.
Hidden in the fine print of this innocuous sounding letter, the proposed contract calls for
“enhanced” biometric identification in driver’s licenses, including the creation of a facial
recognition technology database. Unless this legislative committee objects by February 11, theDepartment of Motor Vehicles will be free to implement new technology that elected leadershave never approved and that poses massive threats to our personal privacy.The Consumer Federation of California has joined the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation,California Eagle Forum, Consumers Union, Privacy Activism, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse,
and the World Privacy Forum in calling on the legislature to reject this plan while there’s still
time.Biometric technology i
s the computerized matching of an individual’s personal characteristics
(like a thumbprint or facial scan) against a database of images. The DMV proposal wouldestablish a new government database of biometric information for 25 million Californians,without any public debate.One would expect, in light of the growing controversy over the REAL ID Act (a federal plan to
create a national identity card based on driver’s licenses) and the revelations of privacy
violations committed by the federal government, that such a program would be vetted in the openby our representatives in the State Legislature, with public comment, before it could ever beenacted.Instead, the DMV has tried to fly under the radar screen, by slipping this significant policy
initiative in a bland notice of the intent to renew a contract for producing driver’s licenses.
Biometric identification uses computer scans and matches to replace the human role in verifyingidentity. Law enforcement curr
ently has access for criminal identification to California DMV’s
database which includes thumbprints and photos of more than 25 million people. As public andprivate surveillance cameras become more ubiquitous, privacy advocates have raised the alarmthat facial recognition devices will go beyond legitimate criminal investigations and become atool to track and record the movements of innocent people.