Ver­mont DMV Keeps Break­ing the Law With Il­le­gal Fa­cial Recog­ni­tion

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Ver­mont is one of the few states that have made it il­le­gal for gov­ern­ment agen­cies to use bio­met­ric iden­ti­fiers (fa­cial recog­ni­tion technology). The state passed a law in 2004 out of con­cerns that new photo ID re­quire­ments would ac­cel­er­ate gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance and un­der­mine Ver­mon­ters’ Con­sti­tu­tional right to pri­vacy.

Even though it is il­le­gal, the Ver­mont De­part­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles (DMV) has been us­ing fa­cial recog­ni­tion technology (FRT) since 2012 on the pho­tos of driver's li­cense and state ID ap­pli­cants and pro­vides the in­for­ma­tion associated with the photo to any agency re­quest­ing it.

The DMV has run at least 126 FRT searches at the re­quest of a va­ri­ety of lo­cal, state, and fed­eral gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and se­cretly shared the pho­tos and “associated in­for­ma­tion” of po­ten­tially thou­sands of Ver­mon­ters with those agen­cies. DMV has re­sponded to search re­quests from the FBI, ICE, the U.S. State De­part­ment, and state and lo­cal po­lice de­part­ments from around the coun­try.

Ver­mont ACLU staff at­tor­ney Jay Diaz said, “DMV’S pro­gram is patently il­le­gal—there is noth­ing in the leg­isla­tive his­tory or ad­min­is­tra­tive record we re­viewed to in­di­cate that this pro­gram should be ex­empt from the statute’s re­quire­ments. To the con­trary, the ex­ten­sive prob­lems un­cov­ered by the ACLU show ex­actly why the Leg­is­la­ture was right to adopt this law to pro­tect Ver­mon­ters’ pri­vacy from gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance.”

Iron­i­cally, the statu­tory lan­guage was crafted by thenDMV Com­mis­sioner Bon­nie Rut­ledge specif­i­cally to ad­dress leg­is­la­tors’ con­cerns that DMV would even­tu­ally use fa­cial recog­ni­tion technology on li­cense ap­pli­cants’ pho­tos.

The cur­rent Com­mis­sioner, Robert Ide, jus­ti­fies his law-break­ing by claim­ing that out­side agen­cies would only re­ceive Ver­mon­ters’ bio­met­ric in­for­ma­tion if they met “strin­gent cri­te­ria", yet he has never turned down a re­quest.

Com­mis­sioner Ide hasn't been break­ing just the FRT law, he also reg­u­larly vi­o­lates the Ver­mont pol­icy that pro­hibits state of­fi­cials from car­ry­ing out fed­eral im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. The DMV was re­cently sued and lost for its vi­o­la­tion of the state pol­icy and was or­dered to pay a $40,000 penalty. Some Amer­i­cans may think that any gov­ern­ment agency should have ready ac­cess to their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, re­gard­less of state pri­vacy pro­tec­tion laws. The prob­lem with this think­ing is that an in­creas­ing num­ber of gov­ern­ment agen­cies and their per­son­nel en­gage in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity and tar­get Amer­i­cans for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons, to pro­tect crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity or seek per­sonal re­venge against some­one.

In the case of Ver­mont, the peo­ple of Ver­mont used their Con­sti­tu­tional right to pro­tect them­selves from gov­ern­ment vi­o­la­tion of their pri­vacy and to claim that Ver­mon­ters don't have that right is to un­der­mine the en­tire no­tion of democ­racy and lib­erty.

The fact that our gov­ern­ment know­ingly en­gages in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity and its crimes are al­lowed to con­tinue should serve as a sober­ing wake-up call to all Amer­i­cans.

Why hasn't the Ver­mont DMV Com­mis­sioner, Robert D. Ide, been ar­rested and pros­e­cuted for vi­o­lat­ing the law?

Since many gov­ern­ment agen­cies won't en­force laws against their own or each other, is it time for the peo­ple to form their own law en­force­ment and court sys­tem to bring jus­tice to crim­i­nals in gov­ern­ment?

Crim­i­nal and en­emy of the peo­ple, Robert D. Ide, Com­mis­sioner of the Ver­mont De­part­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles since 2009.

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