Columbus -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is urging Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine to reject federal law enforcement access to a state database that includes photos of residents.
The ACLU made the request in a letter to DeWine this past week after the group reviewed news reports and communications between the state office and the FBI concerning potential negotiations on state law enforcement records.
"Letting the FBI into [Ohio's law enforcement database, commonly referred to as OHLEG] would give the federal government access to millions of photographs from sources including drivers' licenses, criminal mug shots, and corrections photos," Gary Daniels, the ACLU of Ohio's chief lobbyist, said in a released statement "The FBI has a history of employing secret mass surveillance, and documented problems with management of facial recognition technology. We question why Ohio would consider giving the FBI even more ability to access personal information, with minimum security and oversight, and with no opportunity for public input."
DeWine's office, however, says no formal request or decision on the issue has been made.
"The FBI has not formally requested any OHLEG access at this time," spokesman Dan Tierney said in a released statement. "If such a request is received, the attorney general will submit the request to both the OHLEG Advisory Committee, including civil liberties advocates, and the OHLEG Steering Committee for review before a determination is made."
Other states have agreed to allow the FBI to access their systems as part of law enforcement activities. But the ACLU, in its letter to DeWine, said Ohioans "deserve to know about such technology, its privacy implications and the effects if could have on their lives" before any agreement is approved in the state.
"The FBI's ongoing track record of widespread mass surveillance and blatant disregard for laws and policies meant to protect our privacy should, at the very minimum, give Ohio pause," Daniels said. "At the very least, this issue should be discussed around the state so all Ohioans have an opportunity to weigh in on this rapidly-moving expansion of data sharing."
°Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.