Vermont Attorney General Continues Conversation On Facial Recognition Database

Jul 10, 2019

Vermont was one of a few states cited by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology that allowed the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal law enforcement agencies access to its Department of Motor Vehicle facial recognition software. That’s according to the New York Times and the Washington Post. In 2017, Vermont’s governor ordered the DMV to stop sharing the information after state Attorney General T.J. Donovan determined the practice violated state law.  In the second part of our interview with Donovan, he explains to WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley that while the state has suspended sharing biometric data, it still collaborates with federal agencies and law enforcement on a number of issues.

“When we’re sharing information it’s done because we have reasonable suspicion or probable cause that a crime was committed and we’re conducting an investigation. What you’re talking about on the facial recognition program was unfettered access where they were just collecting that information. That’s where it’s not appropriate.  I think when you put it in the realm of immigration too there’s a lot of unease, there’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of disagreement frankly with the Trump Administration from me personally about how they’re handling immigration and I don’t like the idea of local law enforcement becoming those de facto immigration officials.  But I think we have to make sure that we’re separating those issues from legitimate law enforcement exercises or investigation such as the child pornography cases where we’ve worked very well with the U.S. Attorney’s office. And that’s federal law enforcement versus this type of effort where this information for no apparent reason or I should say for no legitimate law enforcement reason, where they’re just collecting millions of images, that’s what I’m going to object to and that’s what we did object to and that’s why we shut the program down.”       

The complete conversation with Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan on law enforcement access to facial recognition software is here: