Reporting by the New York Times and the Washington Post this week review a study by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology that assessed how federal law enforcement agencies accessed state motor vehicle facial recognition databases. Among the states that provided information was Vermont, which provides a driver’s privilege card to undocumented workers in the state. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says his office became aware of the practice in early 2017. After researching, they found it was a violation of state law and Governor Phil Scott ordered the DMV to stop sharing information with federal agencies. Donovan, a Democrat, tells WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley that sharing the facial recognition database has been suspended since 2017.
“I think that’s the right decision on a number of levels. I think we’re in a uniquely difficult time. I think there’s a lot of unrest and a lot of uneasiness about data, people’s personal data. I think there’s a lot of uneasiness about immigration policy and I think there’s a lot of uneasiness about local law enforcement becoming de facto immigration officers. And so I think for a number of reasons mostly because it violated the Vermont state statute saying that you needed specific legislative approval for DMV to even collect this information it shouldn’t be shared. And the fact that it was I think is a disappointment to many Vermonters. But the fact remains that when we became aware of it we shut it down.”
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan will continue his conversation on the state’s facial recognition database later today on Northeast Report Late Edition at 6.