After a report by the Cincinnati Enquirer revealed that Mike DeWine’s office had been secretly using a new facial recognition system for weeks, DeWine held a press conference saying he probably should have announced the system earlier. ”I never thought there would be a big concern about it,” said DeWine according to the Dispatch. “It’s a natural extension of what’s been done in the past. No new pictures were taken.”
The problem, of course, is not that he failed to announce it, but that he failed to put any sort of procedures in place to protect the privacy of Ohioans whose drivers license photos appear in the database and to prevent abuse of the system.
As we discussed on Monday, there’s currently nothing stopping law enforcement from running security camera footage from your local Tea Party rally through the system to compile a list of all attendees.
The other problem is that DeWine lied to reporters when he claimed he “never thought there would be a big concern about it.” Emails referenced in the Enquirer piece show this statement just isn’t true.
DeWine, apparently, didn’t even know the system was live until it had been up and running for weeks. And once he did find out, he and his staff were so concerned that they actually debated turning it off. “First question: Can we turn this off for now?”, wrote DeWine’s Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Murnieks ”I am told it has been ‘live’ for two weeks. Who approved that go live?”
Other emails obtained by the paper show that ”communications between top officials refer to ‘concern‘ and ‘controversy,’ citing the sensitivity of privacy issues.”
It seems DeWine was so busy running around the state looking for Internet cafes to shut down that he missed a huge NSA-spying-type privacy scandal brewing in his own office. When he did find out, his staff was so concerned they tried to shut down the system.
Still, DeWine said nothing until the Enquirer brought the program to light, at which point he quickly called a damage control press conference and acted shocked that people were concerned about a secret program with no oversight.
The truth is: DeWine was concerned. His staff was concerned. And now that the public knows, they are rightfully concerned as well.
When DeWine claims he “never thought there would be a big concern about it” he is lying. Period.