The system rolled out last year allows police to take an image of an unknown person and run it through a database of 23 million Ohio driver’s license photos and prison mug shots to try to establish a match. State officials said it has resulted in at least one murder arrest.
About 30,000 police officers and others could directly access the system when it was first deployed. The American Civil Liberties Union and others complained that it invites abuse and privacy violations.
Access to the system has now been cut to 5,594, according to numbers released by DeWine’s office this week and reported by The Columbus Dispatch. That’s 2,236 fewer than in April when the numbers were last released.
After concerns arose last year about privacy and overly broad access, DeWine appointed a study commission and then worked with police agencies to restrict access to only those who need to conduct facial-recognition searches.
“Not everybody needed to have facial recognition,” said Tom Stickrath, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “We’ve whittled the number considerably. I don’t know that it will go down much more.”
The drop in users also has led to a decrease in the number of facial-recognition searches. A total of 2,802 searches have been conducted in the first six months of this year, compared with 6,607 during the last seven months of 2013.
Critics of the system include David Pepper, a Democrat who is opposing Republican DeWine in the Nov. 4 election. He said Ohio still has far more users of the technology than in other states.