Privacy Concerns Over Crime-Fighting Tool

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(Courtesy: WBNS)

COLUMBUS (WBNS) — A new technology to help solve crimes is under fire in Ohio over privacy concerns.

The facial recognition software allows law enforcement to identify people on surveillance pictures or video, but the technology launched without an announcement.

Now the state says it will take a second look to make sure all privacy concerns are addressed.

“I think the only mistake was they probably should have told me the day they turned on the switch, but it’s not like it was a secret program.  It’s not like it’s a program we hadn’t already approved and talked about,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said.

He explained the new facial recognition software has been online since June through the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway, already used by law enforcement agencies more than 2,600 times to help identify people and solve crimes.

“It becomes more accurate, becomes quicker, and will save lives,” DeWine said.

It now allows law enforcement to take surveillance pictures, and match them electronically with driver’s license photos.

DeWine has come under a storm of criticism for not telling the public when the system went online.

“There are safeguards built-in, we are comfortable with those safeguards,” DeWine said.

“It hasn’t been handled appropriately, and the larger issue is privacy concerns seem to be a complete afterthought,” argued Gary Daniels with the ACLU.

Surveillance cameras are everywhere and the ACLU says the concern is the potential to track people’s movements and information is only going to get more intrusive in people’s lives.

“This is just another spoke in wheel of creating a surveillance society,” Daniels said.

But the system is already getting positive results, according to DeWine.

“It’s that type of ability to go find people, find problems, catch criminals, that over the next months and years is going to save lives in the state and do a lot to protect your family and my family,” DeWine said.

DeWine says he will consider and implement any recommendations from a special advisory group in the next 60 days, if those recommendations help safeguard the system.

By Chuck Strickler, WBNS