State AG Says It's OK Ohio Implemented Facial Recognition Program Without Notifying Public Because Everyone Else Is Doing It

from the the-fundamental-disconnect-between-public-and-public-servants dept

Facial recognition software is controversial, to say the least. The privacy implications run deep even when deployed in very public areas, as it basically allows for suspicionless searches of anyone whose face is visible to cameras. The feet-on-the-ground equivalent would be having officers canvass a public area, grabbing IDs from anyone it wishes and running their records. Pretty much unacceptable, even considering the potential upside of the software to catch suspected criminals or stumble upon people with outstanding warrants.

These issues haven’t prevented more than half of our nation’s states from rolling out some version of facial recognition databases. That doesn’t make what Ohio law enforcement did right, although its main defender actually uses that exact justification to answer criticism of the roll out.

Without informing the public and without first reviewing security rules for the system, Ohio law enforcement officers started using facial recognition technology more than two months ago, scanning databases of driver’s license photos and police mug shots to identify crime suspects, The Enquirer has learned.

This is fairly common with controversial measures like these: deploy first, ask for permission/set guidelines later. We’ve seen the same thing happen repeatedly, whether its domestic drone use or the deployment of quasi-legal technology like Stingray devices that mimic cell phone towers. This isn’t purely a local phenomenon. National agencies are just as prone to rolling out new methods and devices, and only begin to consider privacy implications or the need to establish guidelines after a public outcry, much as (almost) happened here.

Ohio’s new facial recognition system launched June 6, without the knowledge of the attorney general or his chief operating officer. Upon learning about it two weeks later, after it had already been used for 900 facial recognition searches, top officials debated turning it off.

On June 20, during a meeting with DeWine, Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Murnieks sent an urgent e-mail to DeWine’s chief information officer and top deputies: “First question: Can we turn this off for now? I am told it has been ‘live’ for two weeks. Who approved that go live?”

No approval. No period for public comment. No notification to the top cop in the state, or any other top official for that matter. Ohio’s law enforcement agencies simply decided to go autonomous, claiming that it was an “almost IT-driven thing.” Yep. Completely unstoppable. IT informed the heads of Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation that the system was ready to go live — and that was all the top Bureau officials needed to hear. The “on” button was pushed and a briefing with the state AG was set up… for two weeks later — after 900 searches had already been performed.

In the June 20 briefing with DeWine, officials quickly adopted a practice of calling the launch a “test” although some continued to be nervous about whether the system should have been launched before new policies were created.

COO Murnieks suggested the system be taken offline until policies updated, but apparently, the “off” button was nowhere to be found. The system stayed online. While the COO seemed suitably concerned that facial recognition technology was being deployed without public notification or pertinent policies in place, AG DeWine was more blasé about the whole experience, deflecting criticism using the elementary-school-level “well, everyone else is doing it” argument.

Before June 20, “I didn’t know it was up live, but I wasn’t concerned that it was up live,” DeWine said. “Whether you call it a test phase or don’t call it a test phase, if we find something (wrong), we would change it, and if we find something alarming, we would shut it down. …

“The fact that over half of states use (facial recognition technology), the fact that the FBI has used it, the fact that we have controls in (the online database) that work in the sense that we could prosecute people … all of those indicate to me that what we have is adequate.”

Of all the poor logic contained in these statements, all of it stands out as being particularly idiotic. Every single bit. DeWine may believe two wrongs don’t make a right, but apparently a handful of wrongs adds up just fine.

DeWine feels it’s perfectly acceptable to make mistakes that could affect seriously members of the public. Not only that, but he seems to feel it’s perfectly acceptable to use the public as a testing ground without even providing them a safety net of applicable data policies, safeguards or scope limitations. Pointing to other states, many of whom rolled out their programs more responsibly, is nothing more than verbal sleight-of-hand designed to diffuse outrage. (Notice I didn’t say “defuse.” What he’s doing is spreading the blame, not placating the masses.)

And I have absolutely no idea what this phrase is supposed to mean, other than the prosecution side is always right:

…the fact that we have controls in (the online database) that work in the sense that we could prosecute people..

Because it can be used to catch “bad guys,” all else is negligible? Really? If so, when you’re done with screwing over your own constituents, there’s probably a prime spot in the NYPD for you. They like people who prize crime statistics above all else, even the Constitution.

Plus, he’s happy with everything being “adequate.” That’s a government official for you — never strive for more than you can obtain via stasis.

DeWine led off the previous statement by saying the program simultaneously is and isn’t a “test phase,” and followed it up by telling everyone why it really doesn’t matter what “phase” the program’s currently in.

He said the system is still in a trial phase, but said its scope or use isn’t expected to change after the trial period ends.

Great. So the minimal nod towards stress-testing the system meant nothing. Good to know. DeWine caps this all off by throwing a chewed-almost-beyond-recognition bone to the public’s concerns.

“Should we have talked about it the day it went live?” DeWine said of the facial recognition system. “You could argue that.”

We are arguing that, you dolt. The problem is you, and many others like you (say, the heads of the Ohio’s law enforcement agencies), can’t be bothered to check with the public until it’s thrusting microphones in your face or calling at all hours demanding an explanation. You and many others like you (say, the heads of the state’s law enforcement agencies) are public servants. Apparently, the COO of the state is the only one actually looking out for the people she’s serving. The rest of you all figure you know better and can roll out controversial programs without so much as obligatory “here’s what we’re doing: deal with it” press release. Because crime.

Is it any wonder no one trusts the government?

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Comments on “State AG Says It's OK Ohio Implemented Facial Recognition Program Without Notifying Public Because Everyone Else Is Doing It”

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John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: How much do you trust facial recognition?

Indeed. Face recognition, while better than it has been in years past, still sucks to the point of uselessness except in certain specific use cases. A widespread “Does this face match anyone in our database” question is not really one of those use cases. best case is that it could find a subset of possible matches that a human could comb through. The error rate is just too high.

Anonymous Coward says:

Supposed to mean

“And I have absolutely no idea what this phrase is supposed to mean, other than the prosecution side is always right:

‘…the fact that we have controls in (the online database) that work in the sense that we could prosecute people..'”

That means that if it is misused, the person misusing it could be prosecuted.

out_of_the_blue says:

BUT it's okay with Techdirt when corporations do it!

Facebook strips away a bit more of your privacy ? but won’t say why
You also agree to have your FACE displayed in ads

Next time, minion, try to connect the fact that everything you “share” with a corporation the gov’t can LEGALLY access, so the next stop of ongoing fascism is certain as sunrise.

Where Mike sez: “Any system that involves spying on the activities of users is going to be a non-starter. Creeping the hell out of people isn’t a way of encouraging them to buy. It’s a way of encouraging them to want nothing to do with you.” — So why doesn’t that apply to Facebook?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: BUT it's okay with Techdirt when corporations do it!

He wants you to hate the points he makes. That is pretty obvious.
I wouldn’t call this* case tinfoil… it’s more of a “hate me and every thing I say” reverse troll… rather than a blown out of proportion wild conclusions with some fake facts thrown in to hide the shocking but real facts.

This case for example….
Facebook giving over info.
Facebook recording everything.
Facebook in bed with governments.
Corporations merged with Governments is fascism.

All true, But he wants you to hate those facts and ignore them because of him.

The usual tinfoil in these types of circumstances are the “Illuminati” , “NWO” etc…
The tinfoil hides the facts in noise. It’s not the NWO trying to control us.
It’s facebook who want more money.
It’s the security contractors who want more money.
It’s the spying software developers that want more money.
It’s the elected officials who want more money.
It’s the legalized bribery and corruption of officials.
It’s the relevant investors and banks that want more money.
That’s why the laws are disregarded and spying on us exists etc…

SEEING THAT, the fact we read and communicate about these issues here… WE ALL ALREADY KNOW THAT stuff.

Techdirt is sorta like a tinfoil free zone.
They can’t use tinfoil to hide the facts from us. It doesn’t work here.

They can try to make us hate the facts
“They” of course are not the “NWO” or whatever, “they” being eg… the contractor who will make millions if they get that new contract or the politician who will get maximum contributions if they support this issue.

I personally agree with the majority of stuff that troll says. He is still a troll and has purpose for posting what he does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: BUT it's okay with Techdirt when corporations do it!

I think that you are a shill troll.
Your aim is get people to hate the valid points you raise via the proxy of hating you.
You could have made that point while not insulting techdirt, mike and its readers. The real question is why you did?

Facebook is dying btw. It’s because people are starting to comprehend the reality of having everything they ever post be stored and attributed to them forever. As people comprehend they will appreciate anonymity more and hence become more hateful of facebook.

The points you raise are good.
Only stupid people will dismiss them because it’s you making them.
Only stupid people will dismiss them because you wrap them up in “Hate Me” reverse trolling.

You fail at trolling.
The best you can achieve is getting stupid people to hate the valid points you have.

Anonymous Coward says:

And sensing our distrust, is it any wonder the government trusts no one?

I mean, there are government jobs and budgets at stake here. When you are in charge of massaging the data to keep those pesky, untrustworthy voters quiet, you sure don’t want to have to take the time to listen to their opinions!

New systems mean more work, which means more taxes, which means more power and less accountability. Nice!

Anonymous Coward says:

And sensing our distrust, is it any wonder the government trusts no one?

I mean, there are government jobs and budgets at stake here. When you are in charge of massaging the data to keep those pesky, untrustworthy voters quiet, you sure don’t want to have to take the time to listen to their opinions!

New systems mean more work, which means more taxes, which means more power and less accountability. Nice!

Anonymous Coward says:

Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

This worthless parasite does not add value to this site’s discussion; he/she/it detracts from every single one. There are multiple negative effects from this:

– the profound annoyance of TechDirt’s readers and contributors

– degradation of the quality of the discussions

– digression into irrelevant issues and the refutation of out-of-the-blue’s inane personal insults

Alternatively, please provide a mechanism by which readers can cause every posting by out-of-the-blue, and every reply to every such posting, to be permanently invisible. There is no reason why TechDirt’s readers should be subjected to this crap day after day: make it stop by any means necessary.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

Have a heart man, even trolls need a treat now and again.

Instead of “banning” how about ignoring, is white noise, is not that bad actually.

When my neighbors do a lot of noise I don’t call the police, I put the earguards, if I had a Master Chief helmet I put that on too, unfortunately I don’t so the ear mufflers have to do. Same principal here instead of complaining about how out_of_his_mind is annoying put a filter on it, but it has to be YOUR FILTER as to not stop others from deciding what they can or cannot see.

Digdug (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

If my neighbors are waking me up in the middle of the night with some stupendously loud (and it would have to be to get through my walls) somethingorother, two things would happen. I would ask them to turn it down and then, assuming that didn’t work, call the cops. I’m all for them doing whatever it is they’re doing so long as it’s not bothering others in the process.

However disturbing the peace doesn’t really compare to what the trolls are doing here. I can ignore the trolls quite easily by not un-hiding the post and/or not reading the comments. It’s a tad harder ignoring the guys who seem to be doing their level best to render me deaf.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

They can’t bother you if your ears are soundproofed now can they?

Which actually is cheaper than sound proofing an entire home, also it is portable, you have a soundproof environment anywhere.

Noise doesn’t necessarily needs to be stupendously loud to annoy anybody.

Neighbors that have odd hours for work can annoy you doing just things they need to do, in apartment housings with poor sound insulation any noise at all can be a nuisance.

Aside from that, do you really want to give others the power over your piece and quite?

I don’t that is exactly why I found ways that doesn’t involve having to walk to the neighbors to nag them about things, specially since my neighbors don’t give a fuck and would rather have me move, and although I am twice the size of them and no doubt, am physically more capable then they all are combined I still found a solution that doesn’t involve the use of force(mine or the police) to achieve my goals.

At the moment I am trying to make some SEAgel to increase sound and temperature insulation in an easy way.
Who knew that vegetable gelatin would be a great insulator, although it appears to not coupe well with moisture.

Digdug (profile) says:

Re: Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

They won’t do that because that would make them hypocrites, a stance I happen to agree with. The trolls, and there are more than one (and on multiple sides), should be just as able to spew their venom as you are to ask for their removal. The reporting function is there to hide their posts from those who don’t wish to read them. Free speech means allowing this sort of behavior. As the other poster replied, report the bad behavior and move on.

For my part I actually enjoy reading their posts. It gives me some amusement watching them try to argue/shout/curse their way out of a paper bag and fall flat on their face so many times. Some days I come on to TD to do nothing but find those posts.

As always though, don’t feed the trolls. No good will come of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

Our opinions differ, then. I see nothing more in out-of-the-blue’s posts than pure vandalism. There is nothing hypocritical at all about banishing such people: what they’re doing isn’t “speech”, in the sense of this message or your message or most of the rest here, where people are engaged in civil discourse: he’s just an asshole with a megaphone trying to shout down every conversation he can find. No purpose is served by permitting him to continue — he’s not here to participate in the community, he’s here to destroy the community.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

Do you try and ban the evangelists on the street corner from speaking of the coming rapture? I don’t even give them a second glance, and it’s even easier in Internet comments where there are no signs, podiums, or megaphones. It’s annoying at worst, interesting at best, so I would just live with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Please blacklist out-of-the-blue for life

Ignorance is bliss. Not smart, bliss. Like the grin on a brain damaged person’s face depicts. Ignorance is bliss.

Troll shills exist. They really do.
They are paid to use tactics to achieve outcomes.
Ignore they exist.
Ignore their message and their tactics.
That is going to help.
Understanding their tactics and actions is more important than ignoring them.

This case… He obviously wants you to hate him via the unwarranted insults etc…
He posts valid points that are factually accurate.

Is it not most likely that he wants you to hate the points he has made ?

Just leave this here: ( the full text is at the pastebin link )

The Gentleperson’s Guide To Forum Spies (spooks, feds, etc.)

1. COINTELPRO Techniques for dilution, misdirection and control of a internet forum
2. Twenty-Five Rules of Disinformation
3. Eight Traits of the Disinformationalist
4. How to Spot a Spy (Cointelpro Agent)
5. Seventeen Techniques for Truth Suppression

COINTELPRO Techniques for dilution, misdirection and control of a internet forum..

There are several techniques for the control and manipulation of a internet forum no matter what, or who is on it. We will go over each technique and demonstrate that only a minimal number of operatives can be used to eventually and effectively gain a control of a ‘uncontrolled forum.’

Technique #1 – ‘FORUM SLIDING’

If a very sensitive posting of a critical nature has been posted on a forum – it can be quickly removed from public view by ‘forum sliding.’ In this technique a number of unrelated posts are quietly prepositioned on the forum and allowed to ‘age.’ Each of these misdirectional forum postings can then be called upon at will to trigger a ‘forum slide.’ The second requirement is that several fake accounts exist, which can be called upon, to ensure that this technique is not exposed to the public. To trigger a ‘forum slide’ and ‘flush’ the critical post out of public view it is simply a matter of logging into each account both real and fake and then ‘replying’ to prepositined postings with a simple 1 or 2 line comment. This brings the unrelated postings to the top of the forum list, and the critical posting ‘slides’ down the front page, and quickly out of public view. Although it is difficult or impossible to censor the posting it is now lost in a sea of unrelated and unuseful postings. By this means it becomes effective to keep the readers of the forum reading unrelated and non-issue items.


A second highly effective technique (which you can see in operation all the time at is ‘consensus cracking.’ To develop a consensus crack, the following technique is used. Under the guise of a fake account a posting is made which looks legitimate and is towards the truth is made – but the critical point is that it has a VERY WEAK PREMISE without substantive proof to back the posting. Once this is done then under alternative fake accounts a very strong position in your favour is slowly introduced over the life of the posting. It is IMPERATIVE that both sides are initially presented, so the uninformed reader cannot determine which side is the truth. As postings and replies are made the stronger ‘evidence’ or disinformation in your favour is slowly ‘seeded in.’ Thus the uninformed reader will most like develop the same position as you, and if their position is against you their opposition to your posting will be most likely dropped. However in some cases where the forum members are highly educated and can counter your disinformation with real facts and linked postings, you can then ‘abort’ the consensus cracking by initiating a ‘forum slide.’

Technique #3 – ‘TOPIC DILUTION’

Topic dilution is not only effective in forum sliding it is also very useful in keeping the forum readers on unrelated and non-productive issues. This is a critical and useful technique to cause a ‘RESOURCE BURN.’ By implementing continual and non-related postings that distract and disrupt (trolling ) the forum readers they are more effectively stopped from anything of any real productivity. If the intensity of gradual dilution is intense enough, the readers will effectively stop researching and simply slip into a ‘gossip mode.’ In this state they can be more easily misdirected away from facts towards uninformed conjecture and opinion. The less informed they are the more effective and easy it becomes to control the entire group in the direction that you would desire the group to go in. It must be stressed that a proper assessment of the psychological capabilities and levels of education is first determined of the group to determine at what level to ‘drive in the wedge.’ By being too far off topic too quickly it may trigger censorship by a forum moderator.


Information collection is also a very effective method to determine the psychological level of the forum members, and to gather intelligence that can be used against them. In this technique in a light and positive environment a ‘show you mine so me yours’ posting is initiated. From the number of replies and the answers that are provided much statistical information can be gathered. An example is to post your ‘favourite weapon’ and then encourage other members of the forum to showcase what they have. In this matter it can be determined by reverse proration what percentage of the forum community owns a firearm, and or a illegal weapon. This same method can be used by posing as one of the form members and posting your favourite ‘technique of operation.’ From the replies various methods that the group utilizes can be studied and effective methods developed to stop them from their activities.

Technique #5 – ‘ANGER TROLLING’

Statistically, there is always a percentage of the forum posters who are more inclined to violence. In order to determine who these individuals are, it is a requirement to present a image to the forum to deliberately incite a strong psychological reaction. From this the most violent in the group can be effectively singled out for reverse IP location and possibly local enforcement tracking. To accomplish this only requires posting a link to a video depicting a local police officer massively abusing his power against a very innocent individual. Statistically of the million or so police officers in America there is always one or two being caught abusing there powers and the taping of the activity can be then used for intelligence gathering purposes – without the requirement to ‘stage’ a fake abuse video. This method is extremely effective, and the more so the more abusive the video can be made to look. Sometimes it is useful to ‘lead’ the forum by replying to your own posting with your own statement of violent intent, and that you ‘do not care what the authorities think!!’ inflammation. By doing this and showing no fear it may be more effective in getting the more silent and self-disciplined violent intent members of the forum to slip and post their real intentions. This can be used later in a court of law during prosecution.


It is important to also be harvesting and continually maneuvering for a forum moderator position. Once this position is obtained, the forum can then be effectively and quietly controlled by deleting unfavourable postings – and one can eventually steer the forum into complete failure and lack of interest by the general public. This is the ‘ultimate victory’ as the forum is no longer participated with by the general public and no longer useful in maintaining their freedoms. Depending on the level of control you can obtain, you can deliberately steer a forum into defeat by censoring postings, deleting memberships, flooding, and or accidentally taking the forum offline. By this method the forum can be quickly killed. However it is not always in the interest to kill a forum as it can be converted into a ‘honey pot’ gathering center to collect and misdirect newcomers and from this point be completely used for your control for your agenda purposes.


Remember these techniques are only effective if the forum participants DO NOT KNOW ABOUT THEM. Once they are aware of these techniques the operation can completely fail, and the forum can become uncontrolled. At this point other avenues must be considered such as initiating a false legal precidence to simply have the forum shut down and taken offline. This is not desirable as it then leaves the enforcement agencies unable to track the percentage of those in the population who always resist attempts for control against them. Many other techniques can be utilized and developed by the individual and as you develop further techniques of infiltration and control it is imperative to share then with HQ.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sweet, now they can keep track of the cattle! Wouldn’t it be easier to just implant GPS tracking devices into the cows at the moment of birth?

Doctors could implant it into their brains while their skull is still soft. That way when their skull hardens up it will be impossible to remove, without cutting and drilling.

See, I would make a great Police Officer/Unconstitutional Spy. I’m already thinking of how to take things to the next level. I’m doing this for your own safety!

Damn I’m good.

Anonymous Coward says:

From a practical stand point I don’t see the problem with deploying first and fixing it later it happens all the time in real life, the thing I have a real problem with is the unwillingness of any authority to actually fix anything when they become apparent and I don’t mean one crazy cat lady complaining incessantly about something, I do mean a percentage that actually affects more than a thousand people.

If you have any system that affects thousands of people and people are unwilling to actually fix the problem, that is a problem a real one.

Now that the government have shown they have little respect for the public, they will find it more and more difficult to do anything.

AnonCow says:

Violating the civil rights of a person or group of people is a crime.

Civil servants, hired or elected, should be very aware of this fact and their behaviour should reflect it. Whether it is a billy club or a camera and a server, the result of abuse should be the same.

Violate my civil rights and you could lose your job, be jailed, face financial penalties or all of the above.

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