The real privacy violators

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have turned state driver’s license databases into a facial-recognition gold mine, scanning through millions of Americans’ photos without their knowledge or consent, newly released documents show.

Thousands of facial-recognition requests, internal documents and emails over the past five years, obtained through public-records requests by Georgetown Law researchers and provided to The Washington Post, reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.

Police have long had access to fingerprints, DNA and other “biometric data” taken from criminal suspects. But the DMV records contain the photos of a vast majority of a state’s residents, most of whom have never been charged with a crime.

Here is the full story by Drew Harwell.

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I'm over my WP count, so I can only see this summary, but this doesn't seem shocking to me. I knew the DMV had my photo. In fact I posted for it.

It's not like the fingerprint scanner is secretly stealing DNA

AppleID technology eliminates the problem entirely. AppleID is counterfeit proof and can keep a contract.

Introduce the ID tech into personal ID, or introduce drivers license into iPod. The iPod or person ID will verify anything within the Fourth Amendment, and it will honor legal digital warrants. AppleID thus solving the problem entirely.

Tim! Where is my check?

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Okay, I found it.

This is incredibly naive. We moved from manual fingerprint matches, to computer automation, in .. the 90s iirc. I had a friend that ran one of the companies converting fingerprint databases for the western states.

Now we are supposed to be shocked that, with more computing capacity, the same path is followed with photos on file?

Somebody doesn't know how the world works, both when they posed for their photo, and in the march of technology.

What states has photos on their drivers licenses? I know my province does. It isn't optional.

The photos are for a specific purpose, that the holder of the license can be recognized. If it is used for more than that, outside of a criminal investigation, it is an invasion of privacy. I think there is something in the constitution about that.

I think all states have long had photos, and now certainly with Real ID.

The shock is that your ID would be used to ID you?

Surely that horse left the barn about 100 years ago.

That horse had a long dick though, so it stayed in the barn even after it left.

If you had asked me 2 years ago, would some random troll repeating “cock” and “cuck” improve an economic blog’s comments, I would have said come on, no way.

But really, I admire the Cuckmeister’s dedication, and the constant reminder not to take any of this shit too seriously because we’re all dead in the long run.

The poor creature is mentally ill.
Grafitti is ugly.
And we are not all dead in the long run.
God loves us all.
Thanks for joining the conversation, please try your best to tell me I am wrong about any of these things.

The poor creature needs our prayers, not the sort of cold-hearted patronizing (what a cute little retard) that you gave him.

There are mental health clinics across the United States with lots of good psychiatrists and social workers who can help the poor creature.

Don't distract him from that. If you care about him.

If you do not care about him well you need help as much as he, the poor creature, does.

At least he doesn't pretend to be from Brazil.

What is up with that loon? I can see if he thought it was funny for the first... year. But it's been about four now. Demented and sad.

As I advised him 3 years ago: Never go full retard.

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The impulse to say unwanted and sexually suggestive things to strangers , even if the statements are repulsive in nature, has been chronicled in the DSM under the heading of paraphilias. I think the most common form is "anonymous dirty phone calls" but there are other forms, as our poor troll exhibits here.

It is difficult to treat but the DSM 6 does not consider it completely untreatable.

I would charge quite a lot to take care of someone with that particular paraphilia - it is sort of gross to think about what is going on in that disgusting little mind of his , and even the most gifted of psychiatrists feel entitled to charge extra when they have to spend time thinking about really dirty people - but there are many good-hearted psychiatrists who do not mind contact with that sort of creepy nastiness, as long as there is some hope for recovery.

Poor little cuckmeister! I hope he finds a good psychiatrist some day, it is not good to spend so much energy impersonating a little demon of envy and nasty little embarrassing verbal sinfulness!

Actually, what I really hope is that the poor cuckmeister is an alter-ego of Tabarrok's or Cowen's, and that they are going, in their own unpoetic way, into that awful territory that Shakespeare went into when he created villains like Caliban and Iago and Goneril ....

but that is not likely.
the troll is probably just some fat middle aged old man living in his mom's basement, or living in an apartment that his sad parents help him pay the rent for, and who has watched too much porn and who, like anyone who has engaged too much in a particular sin, has an addled brain and the poor creature needs to talk about his addiction to cuck porn, it is all right there in the DSM-5

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Ask any kid trying to buy his first beer.

Fourth:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I can understand why libertarians would want to relitigate this. I really can.

For instance, if an INS agent sees a Hispanic looking gentleman, and asks to see papers . . you'd all be down with his right of refusal?

That’s already illegal in the US.

Excepting a narrow band adjacent to the border, for obvious reasons.

But I agree with you, make it illegal to ask for ID at the border as well. Going through the motions of clogging immigration court for no reason is expensive and idiotic.

I dropped a link at the bottom of the page.

We have kind of a crazy situation in the US. It is sometimes legal for law enforcement to "demand" things that citizens are under no obligation to provide.

It's a mess.

But maybe predicated on the idea that cops will be demanding these things of other people, and not us.

That’s an incredibly weird way to frame this.

The theory was that with 1-3 million illegal border crossings per year and with heavy involvement by transnational criminal organizations like the Mexican Mafia, Los Zetas, etc, that law enforcement organizations operating on the border would be given greater latitude to conduct vehicle stops.

Vehicle stops , sure. Asking pedestrians for ID, no.

Democrats can fix this with a clear directive to let migrants through.

Was it a weird way to frame it, or is it a real jumble of a status quo?

Your response is nonsensical and frankly functionally illiterate.

If you have a policy prescription please offer it.

Come on man, no one person has agency on this. It is all about deadlock. States vs the federal government. Republicans vs Democrats. Legislative vs judicial.

I could say, with a clean sheet of paper, that citizens are the children of citizens (or at least one) and that citizens should have a DNA backed Real ID, but who is going to believe me?

I'm probably 100 years too early.

That’s great. You avoid the entire issue and jump to a DNA database.

Seems...typical.

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"Excepting a narrow band adjacent to the border, for obvious reasons."

That "narrow band" is 100 miles wide, and "the border" includes all of the coastline.

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How is using a photograph, which can be easily obtained by anyone the minute you leave your residence and appear in public, an "unreasonable search"?

You moved the goalposts but a photograph used to issue a license is not to be used for other official purposes such as a police lineup. This goes double if you aren't suspected of any crime.

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I thought the comments were somewhat harsh on Caplan the other day. I'm a pro-tech, open borders libertarian myself. But then I read the link. Oh boy. He's not up to speed on the privacy issues and jumbled unrelated things together to build his strawman. Perhaps somebody here can kindly show him the ropes.

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I think most of us posed for that photo with the expectation that it will used when we--and only we--share it to someone or give the DMV permission to share it with someone.

Seriously? When you get "an ID" you don't think the state will have the perfectly reasonable expectation that it is for "ID?" Including of your dead body, if it comes to that?

How many of you still want it shown to poll workers to verify voting again?

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Why would one have that expectation?

I’d assume it’s standard practice to make the photo, and the thumb prints they took the last time I renewed, readily available. Give it a few more years, and they will probably add a DNA sample; this is probably not standard now more as a cost issue than anything else.

It’s pretty clear where this is headed as the sensors technology and processing gets cheaper; a (probably multi factor) biometric national ID that will serve as ID, credit card, entry access card, etc.

Your phone with facial and fingerprint recognition and e-wallet today is already getting there. Just a little more software ...

Why would one have that expectation?

Why normatively? Or why cynically? Normatively, I VERY much have the expectation that my driver's license photo shouldn't be shared with the FBI and included in a nationwide face-id DB, just as I don't expect the IRS to be sharing all my tax return data with the FBI (except with a warrant in either case). This is really basic 4th amendment stuff. But cynically? Am I surprised this is happening? Nope. Disgusted, yes, but not surprised.

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So, why not eliminate States and simply have the Federal government do everything related to IDs and permissions?

A single Federal authority would be more efficient in every regard.

One authority overseeing drivers.

One authority overseeing voters.

One authority overseeing who can ride public transit, even when privately owned and operated.

One authority overseeing who can use banks.

Isn't the concentration of all indentification of individuals conservative, given before Reagan I traveled back from Canada based on my word, then on an Indiana bit of printed heavy paper with my name and address on it saying I could drive if wearing glasses.

Since Bush, Congress has required Federal ID to return from Canada and passed a law banning me from traveling on public transportation, waived repeatedly, because States refused to tax and spend to implement Federal dictates the States, and territories, become agents of the Federal government.

And if you mandate federal ID for (good) jobs, you reduce the draw for the illegal immigration that so many say they hate.

Yeah, that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

“Illegal immigration” is a buzzword that means nothing. The people crossing illegally are formally seeking asylum, and are granted permisos to work and live in the US. They can get an ID if they wish to, and we should be grateful that they can get car insurance and support themselves.

Try again ?

We do have a new situation, when it is not adult job seekers, but essentially abandoned children who arrive.

For the latter, developing the central American economy, is the only way to reduce the tragic incentive.

Everything you’ve said is factually untrue.

The term is unaccompanied minors, and it’s not new. Obama rightfully tried to address this issue 8 years ago resulting in federal litigation and the broadening of Flores.

You are out of your depth, as always.

The overwhelming majority of illegal crossings are not of unaccompanied minors. They are groups of people, including minors and unrelated adults, and family units.

There are unaccompanied minors, that we have no sensible policy towards. But it is a tiny fraction.

I don't think this is really about me.

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And here is the White House:

"80% of minors cared for by HHS arrived in the US alone, unaccompanied, without a parent. They were not separated by the government. #ChangeTheLaws"

https://t.co/rYRJmAaKxs

“...cared for by HHS...”

Well obviously. That’s a tautology.

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That pesky Constitution thing

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Basically, anyone unaware of this has been asleep for a number of years.

Particularly anyone using Facebook seeing how Facebook could identify everyone in a posted picture - even though you did not provide that data.

'Facebook has confirmed the acquisition of Israeli facial-recognition software vendor Face.com for an undisclosed sum.

Face.com software is already in use on Facebook in the Photo Finder app, which scans untagged images and tries to match the subject to the social network's 901 million claimed account holders. Coupled with the $1bn purchase of Instagram that Mark Zuckerberg personally rammed through, the deal shows Facebook's increasing ambitions in getting to know pretty much everyone.

"Our mission is and has always been to find new and exciting ways to make face recognition a fun, engaging part of people's lives, and incorporate remarkable technology into everyday consumer products,' said Face.com CEO Gil Hirschon on the company blog.' https://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/06/18/facebook_facial_recognition_facecom/

That link is seven years old, by the way.

And this 8 year old link explains what Facebook has been doing - 'The Mark Zuckerberg-run company started using its facial recognition software in December last year for its Stateside users in a move to automatically provide tags for the photos uploaded by Facebook users.

The tech works by scanning newly uploaded pics and then identifies faces from previously tagged photos already stored in Zuckerberg's internet silo.' https://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/06/07/facebook_facial_recognition_on_by_default/

Never fear, B-B is still triumphant.

"Basically, anyone unaware of this has been asleep for a number of years. Particularly anyone using Facebook..."

The U.S. Government is *supposed* to be bound by the 4th amendment. Facebook is not. The danger of government abusing data is far greater given all the ways it has to target political opponents (through state, federal, and local law enforcement, through the IRS, through various state, local, and regulatory agencies -- some with their very own SWAT teams and shadow legal systems).

I still haven't seen any good argument as to why using a photo for other purposes constitutes an unreasonable search. Any member of the public is able to take a picture of you leaving your private residence and match it to your name.

"Any member of the public is able to take a picture of you leaving your private residence and match it to your name."

But building a database that way would be a LOT of work and expense -- a lot more work than is feasible for any government agency. And drivers license photos are particularly useful for photo ID databases in ways that randomly captured snaps are not (ID photos are taken straight-on, in good light, with a plain background, with no dark glasses or hats, etc). The federal government would have no alternative method of creating a photo database equivalent to what it gets by mining all the state drivers license photos.

Technology will eventually make it easier to build such a database. The point I'm making is that a photo--even stored on a database--does not seem as private as your DNA or the contents of your personal communications.

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'The U.S. Government is *supposed* to be bound by the 4th amendment. Facebook is not.'

Amusingly, the government is free to ask for/purchase Facebook's data, without any 4th Amendment concerns that the courts recognize. And if you think that the government is not making extensive use of B-B's data, well, don't worry, you won't read about it here.

'But building a database that way would be a LOT of work and expense -- a lot more work than is feasible for any government agency.'

Luckily, B-B solved that problem by having those creating the databases do basically all the work in the first place.

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Did it reduce crime and/or increase the number of solved investigations?

It probably would, for the same reason that

https://www.rainn.org/news/dna-database-leads-lower-crime

I guess in the best scenario, a surveillance world further domesticates mankind. And hopefully on billionaires too.

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Requiring everybody to carry a radio-tracker and wear a bib showing their SSN# whenever outside their home would also reduce crime. Are you in favor?

Most people carry radio trackers voluntarily and they love them. And there is no need to wear a bib, that's dinosaur speak, have you been listening?

The reality is that we are heading to a world where you are identified or identifiable more or less all the time. There are numerous benefits. For example, a digital face match is way more likely to absolve most of us from a crime than finger us. There certainly are some problems but as far as I can see the issues that get people really excited are ones that occur in fantasy spaces.

If you are really worried about the government doing something bad to you the correct response would be to examine what is reasonable for "the government" or corporations to do and set legal limits. Stop the world is not a reasonable response; you can't seriously expect it to work.

At the pace that tech moves, fantasy very quickly becomes reality. But actually this tech is already being used by law enforcement and spy agencies all around the world so it isn't even a fantasy to begin with. Have a look at China's social credit scores for civilian version of this.

I was referring to the fantasy that we have an inner mystical sanctum - or something, it's never clear - that can violated by someone actually knowing things about us, without any observable harms.

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"Most people carry radio trackers voluntarily and they love them."

Not everybody. Not all the time. And that data is not collected by the government and should not be available to the govt without a warrant. A warrantless government-mandated, government-run tracking system would be on a whole different level.

"And there is no need to wear a bib, that's dinosaur speak, have you been listening?"

Facial recognition is nowhere nearly as good as license-plate recognition. SSN# bibs would make photo-based tracking vastly better and more efficient than face-recognition based tracking (which has types of faces that it struggles to ID reliably).

Strawman: I didn't say everyone at all times. It's just that the people who choose to not have a trackable device are in the minority.

Your "should be" is an ideological declaration, aka, a preference. If I'm disputing it then I'm disputing it so repeating it doesn't mean much. We all have preferences and I guess the system needs to cater to them to some extent but I'd prefer policy to be based on real world benefits, harms and risks, not on an ideological model.

Facial recognition will improve over time and can be augmented with other biometrics like height and maybe things like gait. To say it's imperfect is stating the obvious. The process should take match closeness and reliability into account. But this is essentially no different to a cop or a witness potentially misidentifying a suspect.

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Your overall point is correct but honestly I don't think people care too much about that lack of privacy either. As long as people believe (either correctly or not) that the government has to follow procedures to arrest you, anything else related to our privacy (like pictures, home address, etc) is valued very minimally. I bet that if you had a poll out there asking people how much they would pay to remove that info from the government's hands the result would be "very little".

F*, I care about privacy
What’s wrong with America anyways? Would this be possibly in any other democracy? And yes, contra Tyler , the private sector is just as dangerous. We can expect the European Union to rein in America’s out of control Big Tech , but who will rein in the U.S. government?

You say you care. Like everybody else would. But I bet there are a bunch of scenarios out there that can easily convince you otherwise. It's like the health care debate. Everyone cares about government interference until they get enough free stuff to not care.

Or like everyone cares about age of constent laws until a bunch of elite academics fly around with their hedge fund buddy.

Moron. You said "constent" lol

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Can we start posting everybody's tax returns like they do in Scandinavia? Because nobody cares about their privacy anyway, right?

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What "newly released documents?" This is not exactly breaking news (except, perhaps to the WP). I cannot recall how long ago this was revealed (at least two years), along with the states that share pics with virtually anyone (e.g., NC). The practice is almost certainly more widespread now, but Big Brother has been watching for a while now.

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With technology provided by Amazon, Planatir, etc. Exactly what people were talking about in the other thread stupid Tyler - the merger of Silicion Valley tech firms with authoritarian government agencies - I guess your peabrained friend Bryan Caplan doesn't get this part.

China and the USA have the same playbook. Have a big private sector that hoovers up all the data on its private citizens that governments can easily access whenever they want.

Tyler is too dumb to realize that is how it works. Or he’s just willfully lying.

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I dont disapprove. You dont have an expectation of privacy either in your driver's license photo or your face in public. All this does is speed up and make more accurate a process that already exists: eyewitness identification.

I've never understood or agreed with any law prohibiting people from recording voice. Microphones are mechanical ears and tapes are mechanical memories. They are far more accurate and reliable than any person's testimony. My only concern with covert video is if it displays images, such as nudity, where the subject does have a privacy concern (when the subject matter doesn't involve nudity).

That said, I have no idea what Privacy Act statement people sign when getting a drivers license photo.

>expectation of privacy either in your driver's license photo
Because? I'm pretty sure I didn't explicitly consent last time I renewed my DL.

>through public-records requests
This is the real lede. Anyone can do the same thing, not just the FBI.

I simply dont recall what I agreed to if my consent was requested at all. I can tell you from years of government service that while you are often notified of privacy rights, the response to any refusal to disclose is denial of your request. A drivers license is a privilege.

I don't agree that anyone can request those records. The Privacy Act and state analogues explicitly exempt personal information from automatic disclosure. They are disclosed only to those with an official need to know.

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You dont have an expectation of privacy either in your driver's license photo
---
If you where you ID around your neck like they do with entry certificates for conventions, then you have no expectation of privacy. That is why they have necklace badges at convention, so anyone can you you are a participant.

If you put your ID in your wallet, in your pocket; you have an expectation of privacy.

Make that 'wear your badge', not 'where your badge'. I am homogeneized today.

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You do when it is in a database. Minnesota pays out $0.5M if the police overstep their authority.

https://www.wired.com/story/minnesota-police-dmv-database-abuse

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Professor Cowen clearly believes that the government cannot be trusted. Does he still think that the citizenship question is innocuous? Should we believe that?

Nothing in the census provision is meant to be innocuous. If the census were innocuous, then it cannot be in the constitution.

The citizenship question is strongly implied, if not outright stated. Eligibility to vote and requirements for census are the same article, same passage. Roberts is mentally ill.

>Roberts is mentally ill.

Well, he's a liberal. But I grant you that it's a fine line.

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Thank tech for the technology. Peter Thiel is a co-founder of Palantir Technologies, which specializes in big data analytics, a euphemism for surveillance, mostly through contracts with . . . . government agencies (but is an equal opportunity privacy violator and works with private companies too). New tech companies develop their technology by contracting with government agencies in their early stages to generate the revenues necessary to develop ever more intrusive technologies. Which is the host and which is the parasite?

Don't forget that Thiel, a citizen of New Zealand, also sits on the board of Facebook. If he ever merges Palantir with Facebook, well let's not get ahead of ourselves.

https://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/board.asp?privcapId=20765463

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I recall from law school, that I did badly in, that there's a diminished expectation of privacy on public roads, and at the border, so this news by TC is not shocking at all. In fact, technically the police can impound your car and do an inventory search of it for any moving violation, such as just as being 5 mph over the speed limit. The fact they don't is only due to their fear of needlessly defending against irate lawsuits. Not a big violation of privacy for them to search for your face or fingerprints IMO.

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There's even a new book about the cozy relationship between tech and government (the Dept of Defense): https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/09/books/review/the-code-margaret-omara.html

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Looking for observations beyond the obvious oddness of American (or at least Cowenian) data protection concerns that have seemingly no objection to private actors amassing enormous quantities of data on individuals' private lives from integrating social media and crawling the web, much of which is laundered back to the public sector through cost crony capitalist contractors, but which is concerned that the government even so much as know what they look like when investigating major crimes and protecting the border.....

It is interesting and strange that the author of the article seems to imply that this would be acceptable were the photos of people who had been charged with a crime, or who were prisoners, and it were from a database of mugshots.

The same arguments about limited use for limited circumstances, or not, apply. Prisoners probably do not explicitly voluntarily give their photos up in the expectation that they will be scanned every time a crime happens, and yet that is accepted, should they have as much as stolen a Milky Bar. But suggest that this happen to "ordinary" citizens a shitstorm ensues. If the author were serious about privacy concerns, he'd want to protect the prisoners and "criminals" too, but it seems that instead he holds a black-and-white viewpoint in which it is an unacceptable indignity for "ordinary citizens" to have their photos so much as scanned anonymously when investigating crime, while there is carte blanche for whatever to be down with "offenders" photos.

(Pre-2016 European data protection law, on the contrary, being one credit I will actually give the union, though the GDPR is overreach. These questions were settled and settled properly.).

'It is interesting and strange that the author of the article seems to imply that this would be acceptable were the photos of people who had been charged with a crime, or who were prisoners, and it were from a database of mugshots.'

Americans have this charmingly odd belief in the idea of innocent until proven guilty. That is, the innocent do not have to prove their innocence, nor do they expect to be part of investigations in which their is no reason to suspect them in the first place.

(Broad subject, horse left barn decades ago, etc.)

It is a stretch that a likeness so much as being matched against your drivers licence photo and found as no match is being "involved". And if your photo matches, there's certainly a "reason to suspect them in the first place".

But in any case, that applies to databases of criminal photos of people who are not involved in a particular crime, even if they did smoke a joint or fight in public 20 years ago...

'It is a stretch that a likeness so much as being matched against your drivers licence photo and found as no match is being "involved".'

Again, as an American citizen, you do not have to prove your innocence. And the government is not allowed to act as if everyone is already a potential criminal - something that the people who tore the American colonies from the grasp of a European nation attempted their best to prevent. You are welcome to disagree with this perspective, of course.

'And if your photo matches, there's certainly a "reason to suspect them in the first place".'

That is incorrect, since the searching of an entire database is what actually led to the matching. Basically, American legal authorities must have cause to search - it is actually quite explicit in the Constitution, and is based on the Founding Fathers wanting to prevent normal European concepts regarding the proper functioning of the state from becoming common in their revolutionary experiment. Nothing lasts forever, obviously.

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... well of course "Drivers Licenses" are now the 'National ID Cards' so feared by Americans in the 20th Century.
National ID Cards are a hallmark of authoritarian governments.

"Drivers Licenses" are only supposed to show you meet state requirement for operating a vehicle on public roads.
The requirement to carry that license is arbitrary legal code -- you could reasonably just bring it to the police station or court later -- if you were accused of some traffic violation, but government agents strongly favor their convenience above yours.

Try asking a cop for his official police ID Card if you are stopped by one on the highway....

National ID card indeed, but it’s hardly just government agents. It’s going to be driven mainly by user convenience and commercial efficiency.

I recently upgraded my cellphone at Verizon. First thing they did after getting my phone number was ask for my driver’s license.

Sadly this is now a common path for ID theft. The thief "upgrades your phone" or "swaps your SIM" and has full keys to the kingdom.

Though perhaps Apple and Google are now much more persnickety about main account password resets for this reason.

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Starting next year that driver's license issued by your state is also going to have to follow certain federal guidelines, otherwise you won't be able to... fly?

But you're being paranoid if you think, for example, gun registers will be used for anything else. Scope creep? What's that?

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Yet, Brazil has a national ID system, and it is OK. I think we, Americans, should try to be less provincial and short-sighted in our judgments.

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"Police have long had access to fingerprints, DNA and other “biometric data” taken from criminal suspects. But the DMV records contain the photos of a vast majority of a state’s residents, most of whom have never been charged with a crime"

I don't see what the problem is. If one did nothing wrong, one has nothing to hide. Brazili is creating a giant genetic archive to be able to detect and capture criminals. Crime is down in Brazil for the second year in a row!!

That depends on your definition of "wrong", which is increasingly including having opinions deemed unacceptable by the cultural stasi

But they pretty much red states with stop and identify laws?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_and_identify_statutes

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I can not imagine Brazilians using the due process for evil. Maybe tou lack faith innthe American people.

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This is easily a GDPR violation in Europe. Why doesn't the US have similar protections for their citizens?

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It's really nothing to get excited about. Federal agencies simply want to be sure about the identity of people they intend to reward for various good deeds. They wouldn't want honors to mistakenly be given to the wrong person. A flag at half-mast for a private citizen, rather than a former public employee, would be a tragedy.

No doubt most people, Americans in particular, have the feeling that their wonderful and beneficient government will exist forever. That's quite unlikely. All governments eventually become extinct and the replacement regime wants all the information that the former had. Even though the original may have been very benevolent, the new guys may not be. It is folly to maintain records that would be of use to an oppressor. An example.

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I am just curios.

State databases are subject to all manner of laws regarding their disclosures. I do not begin to claim that I understand the actual restrictions in play; but does anyone actually believe that Facebook, for instance, has a higher a higher legal burden protecting their image databases?

If the Feds are willing and able to work with or around the many idiosyncratic rules regarding state databases, why do we suspect that they will not also do so with the tech companies?

Worse, even if tech somehow manages to be less accessible in the long run, I still see it better to have the data in 50 different databases than one pot that every government on earth might be tempted to raid.

We don't have to suspect anything. We already know they do [1]. In fact, Facebook sold American voter data to a foreign analytics firm with nobody's consent [2]. But not all is lost as Apple successfully denied a request by the FBI to break into their IPhones saying a backdoor would compromise the integrity of their product. Facebook in theory could do the same but they lack the will and ethics as it may reduce their profit and election-bending powers.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_(surveillance_program)
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook%E2%80%93Cambridge_Analytica_data_scandal

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Welcome to the real world, Tyler.

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In this day and age, the photo, name, and address of almost everyone in the US is available for public download if you know how to look for it. The state databases are just more convenient and collated. In other words, the federal government doesn't really need them to do this, it is just a bit more convenient.

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Dog bites man. I'm happy to see it used to remove illegals.

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I don't know what is more disappointing: that the government is rifling through our records at will and without our consent or that so many of the commentators here have no objection to this intrusive and overzealous practice.

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