More than 1,500 Californians over the last two weeks joined EFF in an email campaign to defeat a proposal by an obscure committee within the California Department of Justice that would have compromised the privacy and security of their driver-license photos.  As part of its strategic plan, the committee had approved a goal to share driver and mugshot photos with a national law enforcement network and allow police to leverage facial recognition technology against the image database.

The committee listened to your letters.

At its meeting on Wednesday, the CLETS Advisory Committee (CAC) voted unanimously to delete “Goal 8,” which encompassed both the image sharing and facial recognition, from its strategic plan. (CLETS, by the way, stands for the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, the statewide police information-sharing network.)

In a letter [PDF] to CAC and its Stranding Strategic Planning Subcommittee, EFF pointed out that the committee in previously approving the goal had disregarded warnings from the California Department of Motor Vehicles that photo-sharing and facial recognition were not authorized under state law. Despite those warnings, CLETS staff applied for a grant to build out the system and began arranging lobbying meetings with law enforcement associations as if the legal roadblocks were mere inconveniences to overcome.  

At yesterday’s meeting, we also learned that those meetings had been canceled after legal staff raised concerns that they couldn’t be held without running afoul of California’s open meetings laws.

It’s great news that facial recognition and photo sharing are no longer on the table, but we remained concerned about several other CAC strategic goals, including biometric collection for infractions and GPS tracking of offenders.  As we told the committee at its the meeting: 1,500 emails was only the beginning and we will continue to shine light on their plans.



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