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ACLU of Michigan files FOIAs over state police photo database for facial recognition technology

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A State Police database of photos from Michigan driver's licenses, social media, and mugshots is receiving scrutiny.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has issued two freedom of information act requests seeking information about how the database is used and whether other organizations have access to it.

Phillip Mayor is with the ACLU. He said state police have roughly 50 million photos made up of drivers license photos, social media pictures, and mugshots.

“It raises concerns about privacy because it is essentially a way of monitoring and surveilling us everywhere we go,” he said. “Essentially it turns everybody into a suspect.”

Mayor said there is no pending lawsuit from the group - but they are concerned about how the state justifies taking photos from drivers licenses and social media for use in facial recognition software.

“We don’t know entirely what the legal justification is for the secretary of state sharing all of our drivers license photos and identity photos with the Michigan state police,” he said.

Mayor said the ACLU is also concerned about how the database could be used by outside organizations - including Immigrations and Custom Enforcement.

Lawmakers have raised similar concerns about whether facial recognition technology violates the privacy of state residents and introduced legislation to ban it. That legislation has been sitting in committee since May.

State police had previously said there is a strict set of policies around the use of the technology. A spokesperson has also said the technology is “vital” to police investigations.

You can view the state police policies on using facial recognition technology here.