The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear…

nsa sacrifice privacy deering
(John Deering via GoComics.com)

… And let’s hope it’s not President Sanctorum saying that in 2018. From the Washington Post, “State Photo-ID Databases Become Troves for Police“:

The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver’s-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations.

The facial databases have grown rapidly in recent years and generally operate with few legal safeguards beyond the requirement that searches are conducted for “law enforcement purposes.” Amid rising concern about the National Security Agency’s high-tech surveillance aimed at foreigners, it is these state-level facial-recognition programs that more typically involve American citizens…

[L]aw enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities…

The Supreme Court’s approval this month of DNA collection during arrests coincides with rising use of that technology as well, with suspects in some cases submitting to tests that put their genetic details in official data­bases, even if they are never convicted of a crime.

Facial-recognition systems are more pervasive and can be deployed remotely, without subjects knowing that their faces have been captured. Today’s driver’s-license databases, which also include millions of images of people who get non-driver ID cards to open bank accounts or board airplanes, typically were made available for police searches with little public notice…

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit

53 replies
  1. 1
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Our states, 50 little laboratories of democracy. Ten, fifteen years ago there was a rash of states selling, or trying to sell, this data. Some companies were working an anti-theft/fraud product for point-of-sale terminals.

  2. 2
    Todd says:

    Oh noze – the police are going to have the ability to query people about who they are and where they were at a specific time if they resemble perpetrators of crimes against other people, or even worse, they might be identifiable as witnesses. This is the worst thing EVAR.

    WOLVERINES!!!!!

  3. 3
    Todd says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    Ten, fifteen years ago there was a rash of states selling, or trying to sell, this data

    It is OK with teabaggers and idiot firebaggers for unaccountable private entities to have your shit to do anything they want with. Putting it in the hands of an elected, accountable government for use as a law enforcement tool gives them a sad.

  4. 4
    fuckwit says:

    @Todd: That’s it in a nutshell, thank you.

    I’m much more scared of private corporations having my data. There is no FOIA for corporations.

  5. 5
    debbie says:

    @fuckwit:

    Me too. Especially because they have determined that no laws apply to them. Case in point, the growing disregard for the Do Not Call list. “Laws? Laws? We don’t need no stinkin’ laws.”

  6. 6
    Older_Wiser says:

    So tired of this “govt encroachment”, spying on everyone BS meme. It’s not such a leap for all the conspiracy nuts to come out, gunz blazing (metaphorically speaking, of course).

    Yes, we should discuss privacy and surveillance and how far it should go, but some would prefer that LE and Fed agencies have no tools at all.

    Outlaw fingerprints as a mean of ID? Maybe those eye scans, palm scans and other tools of private enterprise while we’re at it? Oh, hell, just outlaw any forms of ID at all.

    And BTW, you will see more CCTV cameras in stores and other enterprises than you will see on the street or even in govt bldgs. Yes, they’re used for purposes of catching shoplifters, but at one large home improvement chain, they’re more likely trained on cashiers–their own employees–to monitor them.

  7. 7
    Punchy says:

    Could facial reccy be used to ID bank robbers as the crime is happening? That would seem to be a pretty good crime deterrent…

  8. 8
    gene108 says:

    P@Todd: Private entities cannot throw you in jail. Government misuse of information has more dire consequences than anything a private entity can do.

  9. 9
    Todd says:

    @gene108:

    Private entities cannot throw you in jail.

    Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, you dipshit.

    Before government “throws you in jail”, there is a specified process that requires a shitload of steps – there have to be multiple failures for a true miscarriage of justice to occur, and there are consequences to those failures, and mechanisms to invoke those consequences. It isn’t perfect, but the processes works far more often than they don’t, the end result being that we have a fairly functional, stable society vis-a-vis physical safety and protection from theft.

    Now, what can and have private entities done that can really fuck up your life? Create dangers to your physical safety through malicious cost cutting. They can forego maintenance, buy substandard material. They can arbitrarily sell your data to third parties with unknown security standards. They’ve dumped health insurance customers from their rolls after decades (just before needs actuarially kick in), they’ve come up with bogus rating formulae for the all important credit reports. They’ve costed out their expected damages from claims due to cost cutting, and proceeded to fuck with lives anyway (all while vigorously contesting the claims).

    All the while, they rest happily on the statutory limitation of liability as a corporate entity, the shareholders and directors and officers knowing that there won’t be any personal liability.

    FUCK…YOU!

  10. 10
    c u n d gulag says:

    The facial recognition systems will be very helpful if there are mass protests in the street, and the powers-that-be decide they want to bring people in.
    Just take a few photo’s of the group(s), and set the computers to work, then send out the police.

    I’d bet the Egyptian and Syrian governments wish they had that ability.

  11. 11
    Mino says:

    The problem is that the lower court has been saying that if private entities collect your data, it is no violation of your 4th amendment rights for government to collect the data from the third party. Anybody think a Right to Privacy Law is in the works to restrict the amount of info a private vendor is allowed to require or amass? Anyone see a law restricting gov’t un-challenged right to bypass 4th amendment rights? (And it is unchallenged because Justice won’t let it get into court.) Nope, did not think so.

  12. 12
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    Every time I hear about this, I think of the Babylon 5 ep where Ivanova enlists an order of monks to review station surveillance to identify a serial bomber. One of the hazards of writing science fiction; tech advances will often render your story obsolete a lot faster than you anticipate.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    NickT says:

    I’d just like to know what people thought was going to happen in an age where our capacity for capturing visual and other kinds of data, not to mention storing and transferring it, was higher than at any point in human history. Leaving aside the usual hysterics about Big Government and Tyranny – did anyone really think we would continue to live in the “good old days” when the police had good old paper files and good old tape recorders? The overwhelming majority of what is happening today is simply more advanced technology updating and augmenting the old system. If you don’t like it, feel free to start a neo-Luddite movement to smash computers and close down the internet. Of course, that would mean that Cole and company would have to blog using vast flocks of trained carrier pigeons, but I am sure that’s a sacrifice we would all be willing to make. It would certainly open up new avenues for our trolls to explore.

  15. 15
    Todd says:

    @NickT:

    Leaving aside the usual hysterics about Big Government and Tyranny – did anyone really think we would continue to live in the “good old days” when the police had good old paper files and good old tape recorders?

    Y’know, the old days where the alibi of “I was at home, but nobody can verify it” was generally seen to be shaky are now over and done. You’re at home, alone, but your phone GPS history can be tracked, your digital TV watching confirmed, your visits to websites confirmed.

    These are good things. This constant coddling of the worst common denominators in American society (the firearm fetishists, the paranoids and the cranks of the left and right) has needed to stop for a very long time.

  16. 16
    Suffern ACE says:

    I think it was NYC that lost its case for collecting yearbooks to use in its ID system. I actually feel the same way about this. You gave your photo for a drivers listened. The police can gather their own photo log. Thanks.

  17. 17
    NickT says:

    @Todd:

    I suspect that civil libertarians would be better served learning to make use of their own new technology, rather than rehearsing the same tired whining about police states and gulags. We knew about Rodney King, for example, largely because George Halliday videotaped (ah, the good old days!) the police beating him.

  18. 18

    Anne Laurie & the rest:

    I know there are a lot of pet lovers over here, please read this! We’ve just had the most awful experience with CostCo’s brand of flea and tick control. It’s poison!!! Please tell everyone NOT to use this stuff!

  19. 19
    Hoodie says:

    @NickT: Don’t get carried away, it is not the best of all possible worlds. Just because a technology is new does not mean it is always superior in a global sense, and sometimes we get locked into crappy technology because of inertia and path dependence. We’re not supposed to live to serve technology, it’s supposed to serve us. There should be some concern that people increasingly have no choice but live on the web, where it seems there may be no basis for a reasonable expectation of privacy or, more broadly, autonomy, unless you are rich and/or sophisticated. Maybe the concerns about privacy are not so much about providing it on the web, but finding ways that people can have some tangible security that does not rely on being able to handily navigate virtual space, that afford people some autonomy without withdrawing completely from society and turning into Ted Kaczynski. The recent hysteria about NSA monitoring is in some ways a case of white people problems, it’s attacking the wrong problem. There are arguably bigger violations of civil rights happening on a daily basis, particularly at state and local levels, and a lot of those arise from the fact that there are people who are effectively shut off from economic and other social activity because they are not equipped to navigate this new world. The reaction to the NSA stuff threatens to obscure those issues. Just because the shouting is confused doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some validity.

  20. 20
    NickT says:

    @Hoodie:

    You do realize that my point isn’t that we live in the best of all possible worlds? What I said was that much of the hysterical vaporing about technology and the police/state is the consequence of people refusing to think through the inevitable consequences of new technologies.

    These two claims are not the same argument.

    Also:
    “Just because the shouting is confused doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some validity.”

    And just because people are shouting doesn’t mean that they are saying something meaningful or useful.

    Which was, again, the point ofwhat I was saying. People need to think through how the world works. If you want to have cell-phones and take pictures of cute baristas at your leisure, you also have to accept that your cell-phone can be tracked, that other people can use their cell-phones to take pictures and audio of you, that you may, for example, be caught for posterity denouncing the 47% at a political event etc. I don’t remember too, too many people here complaining that Mitt Romney’s liberty was violated when the 47% remarks were documented thanks to.. why yes, modern technology.

  21. 21
    cvstoner says:

    @Todd:

    Putting it in the hands of an elected, accountable government for use as a law enforcement tool gives them a sad.

    Well, except that the NSA and the like are neither elected nor accountable.

  22. 22
    cvstoner says:

    @Hoodie: Well said.

  23. 23
    Hoodie says:

    @NickT: Well, maybe I was overinterpreting, but you were beginning to sound like a technology fetishist. It’s not all hysterical vaporing and, what I was saying generally aligns with your observation that people are not considering the consequences of new technology. I agree that the NSA scandal is mostly theater, but you’re similarly trivializing the impact of technology by talking about taking photos of cute baristas. That obscures the potential problem that people are increasingly having no meaningful choice but to live on the web.

  24. 24
    gene108 says:

    @Todd:

    Before government “throws you in jail”, there is a specified process that requires a shitload of steps – there have to be multiple failures for a true miscarriage of justice to occur, and there are consequences to those failures, and mechanisms to invoke those consequences. It isn’t perfect, but the processes works far more often than they don’t, the end result being that we have a fairly functional, stable society vis-a-vis physical safety and protection from theft.

    Do you know anyone who has been arrested and faced jail time?

    I do.

    The power of the state is overwhelming, when compared to the individual, even with all the safe guards that are in place.

    If you can’t afford a good defense attorney, you may well be shit out of luck.

    Why else do you think so many poor mentally ill substance abusers get shuffled into jail, instead of some type of MICA program?

    The DA wants to convict, because it’s their job and the poor slob doesn’t have the ability to do anything else than accept whatever terms the state sets out for him.

  25. 25
    NickT says:

    @Hoodie:

    No, you were reading carelessly. Pointing out the inevitable consequences of new technologies is not the same thing as fetishizing them. It’s an acknowledgement of reality. New technologies change our capacity for doing things, not necessarily the underlying impulses or ideas behind our actions. Pointing out that rifled gun barrels changed the modern battlefield is not the same thing as saying that rifled gun barrels are a good thing. Likewise, our new digital technologies can be used for taking cute pictures of pets to share with the internet – or they can be used to document where people are at a given point in time. If you accept the technology, you also have to accept that both possibilities are now available to people using it. This is not the same thing as making a judgment that the technology is “good” or “bad”.

    Do you understand the distinction between the two arguments now, or do I have to explain it again?

  26. 26
    LAC says:

    @NickT: high fiving ya, man! :-)

  27. 27
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @NickT: Simply because technology makes something possible does not means that society needs to accept it as inevitable. One can set limits.

  28. 28
    Sister Rail Gun of Warm Humanitarianism says:

    @Southern Beale: The ASPCA has a poison hotline. I had to call it a while back when one of mine got into my garbage and chewed up a used imitrex nasal spray. Good luck to you and your furbabies.

  29. 29
    mk3872 says:

    Anne – Reading your garbage this weekend, including your assistance in spreading the viral incompetence of the CNET bogus story on NSA reading your emails, has led me to believe that you should make sure you keep that tin-foil hat neatly placed on your head at all times and lock your doors.

    Your paranoia is DELICIOUS!

  30. 30
    Cassidy says:

    @mk3872: Fuck off and die asshole. If you ain’t got something to say, go pull your teeth out with pliers.

  31. 31
    Todd says:

    @gene108:

    Do you know anyone who has been arrested and faced jail time?

    I do.

    Oh, Jesusfuck.

    I’m a lawyer, now nearly 25 years in. I started in the local public defender’s office doing garden variety thefts, assaults, sex crimes, robberies, persistent felon prosecutions, etc. Left the PD office for a general practice that included private state and federal criminal work, including complex white collar issues and some CJA appointed cases in one neighboring Federal district that didn’t have a salaried public defender staff. I don’t generally do serious criminal work now, but did up until just a few years ago.

    So yes, I’d say I have some experience with poor, beleaguered, oppressed criminals.

  32. 32
    mk3872 says:

    @Cassidy: Nah, but thanks for the advice! BTW, I think you meant, “if you ain’t something to say THAT I LIKE, then fuck-off and die, a-hole.”

  33. 33
    Cassidy says:

    @mk3872: Oh no, I meant if you don’t have anything intelligent to add. Clearly you don’t. So, and I’ll speak a little more slowly for you, go pull your teeth out with some pliers you useless sack of shit.

  34. 34
    mk3872 says:

    @Cassidy: Still a no-go on the whole f-yourself and pulling my teeth out thing …

  35. 35
    Smiling Mortician says:

    @Todd:
    Q: Do you know people who have been arrested for a jailable offense?
    A: Yes, I have experience with criminals.

    I get that working as a PD can make you jaded, but jesus, man. If there’s no daylight in your mind between “person who’s been arrested” and “criminal,” then you’re kinda making gene108’s point.

  36. 36
    Jockey Full of Malbec says:

    @fuckwit:

    I’m much more scared of private corporations having my data. There is no FOIA for corporations.

    Having grown up soaking in an unholy soup of Reagan and Rand, the young left has apparently absorbed the right-wing framing: “PUBLIC POWER BAD! PRIVATE POWER GOOD!”

    Of course, once you believe that, you’re not longer on the left, almost by definition.

    I am… entertained.

  37. 37
    Rex Everything says:

    None of this matters, AL, because Jerry Nadler called the head of the FBI a liar.

  38. 38
    Rex Everything says:

    @Jockey Full of Malbec:

    Having grown up soaking in an unholy soup of Reagan and Rand, the young left has apparently absorbed the right-wing framing: “PUBLIC POWER BAD! PRIVATE POWER GOOD!”

    Of course, once you believe that, you’re not longer on the left, almost by definition.

    But it’s important to remember why that is. The government we trust, to the extent we trust it, is both representative of and accountable to us (corporations are neither). When the government starts acting in opposition to our interests, and when we’re neither able, nor willing in large enough numbers, to hold it accountable, then it’s simply another locus of power, at least as hazardous as any other. In such circumstance it is the duty of any Left movement to vehemently oppose it.

  39. 39
    Jockey Full of Malbec says:

    @Rex Everything:
    Hate to have to remind you this, but THE GOVERNMENT IS US. (But thanks for helping show my point– the left has absorbed the ‘us vs them’ framing that has worked so well for the right wing these past few decades).

    If the majority doesn’t like what the NSA are doing, all they have to do is bother to show up and vote when the time comes.

    That said, seeing as this info has been largely public since at least 2006, I predict this conversation will stop exactly 10 seconds after the next Republican President gets sworn in.

  40. 40
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Why is there a Boston Marathon certificate on the wall of the house?

  41. 41
    Rex Everything says:

    @Jockey Full of Malbec:

    Hate to have to remind you this, but THE GOVERNMENT IS US.

    No. This is simply not the tautology you pretend it is. At the best of times your statement is maybe nearly true; but it’s always conditional.

    It would be nice if every truth were also a convenient refutation of GOP propaganda. Sometimes, unfortunately, the truth is a bit more subtle than that. It’s not as simple as “government us: government good”; that’s childish, irresponsible thinking.

  42. 42
    Jockey Full of Malbec says:

    @Rex Everything:
    The NSA (like any other Agency) is comprised of career bureaucrats. They can (and will) only perform as directed by the Executive, and as funded by the Congress.

    Unless I missed the memo about all future elections being cancelled, we out here in the cheap seats do still have quite a bit of say over who runs those branches of government. And therefore policy.

    Your viewpoint may be trendy, but it’s also quite toxic. I reject it.

  43. 43
    Todd says:

    @Smiling Mortician:

    I get that working as a PD can make you jaded, but jesus, man. If there’s no daylight in your mind between “person who’s been arrested” and “criminal,” then you’re kinda making gene108′s point.

    Actually, I’m not jaded. My experience has led me to appreciate the way the process works, and to notice how ultimately, things tend to turn out correctly.

    You have to submit to the process for it to work. Far left and far right never seem to “get” that.

  44. 44
    IOKIODI says:

    @Todd:

    You were a PD? Shit, that’s the scariest thing I’ve yet read on this blog.

  45. 45
    El Cid says:

    Remember though that conservatives oppose a national ID card of any type, because Amero, and Mark of the Beast, and ACORN, etc.

  46. 46
    KmCO says:

    @Jockey Full of Malbec: If what you’re saying is true, then could you kindly explain the role of money and super PACs in elections?

  47. 47
    Thomas F says:

    @Todd: You’re a government’s best friend my man. You conjure up excuses for official transgressions before they can even think of them. It’s been spectacularly informative watching you work these past few weeks. What’s so amazing is that you devote so much uncompensated time and effort apologizing for authority.

  48. 48
    mclaren says:

    You’re all missing the big story: after the Boston bombing, the military quietly gave itself the power to police American streets.

    Combine the surveillance with militarized police lockdowns and TSA VIPR checkpoints on every street and public area and whaddaya got?

    …Three guesses.

  49. 49
    Liberty60 says:

    @Todd:

    Fuck you and the horse you rode in on, you dipshit.

    Going for the maximum persuasive argument, I see.

    @Mino:

    The problem is that the lower court has been saying that if private entities collect your data, it is no violation of your 4th amendment rights for government to collect the data from the third party.

    This is the problem- if government and corporate America were separated by some firewall, we could discuss them as separate entitites, but increasingly they are merging into one and the same.

    @NickT: We can and should accept the inevitable arms race of technology, but shouldn’t we also update our antiquated regulatory and legal structure that assumed that corporations and government were always separate entities with disparate interests?

  50. 50
    Liberty60 says:

    @Todd:

    You have to submit to the process for it to work.

    The numbers of powerless people submitting themselves to the system, and being mangled beyond all outrage, are legion. You must be the one Public Defender in America who has never noticed that.

  51. 51
    Jockey Full of Malbec says:

    @KmCO:

    If what you’re saying is true, then could you kindly explain the role of money and super PACs in elections?

    To try to convince the majority of the 99% to vote against their own interests, of course. Often with great success.

    “The People” could change the entire makeup of the government, completely and peacefully, in the space of 6 years. The fact that they are generally too stupid to do so is a different issue.

    Constant bombardment with ‘us v them’ messaging from both extremes of the political spectrum doesn’t help matters.

    But fine, go on feeling like a helpless little lamb, if that makes you feel better.

  52. 52
    Rex Everything says:

    @Jockey Full of Malbec:

    The NSA … can (and will) only perform as directed by the Executive, and as funded by the Congress.

    Yeah, kind of like the CIA and the FBI? I’m so glad they’ve been so effectively reigned in by the phenomenally well informed American voter.

    Look, if we as citizens can do something about this using democratic channels — and I believe we can — we have to start by recognizing governmental power’s tremendous potential for abuse. What good is is to soothe ourselves with bromides about how much worse private power is? Will you be happy when you wake up to find that private power has bought your government?

  53. 53
    negative 1 says:

    OK mini-Glenn Becks, lets all take a puff and calm down. Before the black helicopters touch down some of this stuff may be useful. Personally, fingerprint data caught the guy robbing my house, and if facial recognition software can help find missing persons we’d love it. Since the tech exists, shouldn’t we work to pass laws justifying the situations that we can use it rather than screaming ‘Oh noes! Big brother read my grocery list I just sent to my mom!’

Comments are closed.