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DeWine Defends Facial Recognition While Critics Complain It’s Too Intrusive

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UPDATED: Wednesday September 18, 2013 6:37 PM

Facial recognition can make it easier for police to identify and arrest suspects.

But the public had no input on it in Ohio, and critics are asking why so many people have access to this information.

"The photographs in our data base were already available to law enforcement," said Tom Stickrath the Superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

The database stores about 24 million facial recognition photos.

Stickrath says computers compare facial features, like the size of the face, eyes and chin.

"Then, we have demographic information on that individual through other records and license plate and drivers license information so you're matching the suspect with other data," said Stickrath.

The facial recognition system started back in June with no public notice.

"The day we actually turned it on was the day the first story about the NSA broke," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

DeWine admits the timing was bad, but insists facial recognition is not intrusive.

"We're not expanding the data base," said DeWine.  "We're just using it, frankly, to save lives, protect the public and it has safeguards.

But critics complain it's an expansion of government.

"The government always finds different ways they can use this technology," said Gary Daniels from the Ohio ACLU.  "So they roll it out with a particular goal in mind, but one year, five years, 10 years down the line, it's being used for a whole host of other things."

DeWine has formed an advisory group that's studying security and protocol issues.

Former Ohio Supreme Court justice Yvette McGee Brown says one of her concerns is the number of people – 30,000 – who have access to facial recognition.

"We're looking at whether all of those users need the same level of access," said McGee Brown.  "Do they all need access to everything?"

DeWine says anyone misusing the system could be charged with a felony.

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