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AG Shuts Off Access To Database Of Ohio Driver's License Photos For Local Officers

Attorney General Dave Yost talks to reporters about his review of the facial recognition database.
Andy Chow
Attorney General Dave Yost talks to reporters about his review of the facial recognition database.

Attorney General Dave Yost is shutting off direct access to the state's facial recognition database of driver’s license photos for thousands of local law enforcement officers, after a review of how and who was using that database.

Yost said the database was not abused or used for mass surveillance or dragnets by federal officials. That has reportedly happened in a few states to find undocumented immigrants. Yost said he wanted the review after those reports surfaced.

But Yost is still cutting off access for 4,549 local officers till they can be trained about the system’s flaws, requiring that they instead work through state investigators at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

"Everything is being done well. I want it to be done better…I want to make sure all of our law enforcement and partners that are using this tool are using it properly," Yost said.

Yost added that he's also putting together an advisory board to come up with guidelines on how the database can be used while still protecting privacy rights and civil liberties of those with photos in it. And he stresses that the photos are just tools to help with investigations.

Yost's office said the database contains a total of 24 million images, with 21 million of them coming from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles - and all of those are from no later than 2011.

In the last two years, Ohio’s database was searched more than 11,000 times, nearly always by local law enforcement agencies. Federal agencies performed only 3.8% of searches since 2017. And only 116 searches came from Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE.


Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.
Karen Kasler
Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.