Attorney general excludes civil liberties experts from newly-formed advisory committee
(Columbus, Ohio, 8/30/13) -- On Thursday, the Ohio chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-Ohio) joined other civil rights organizations in expressing concerns about the recent activation of facial recognition software in Ohio without the public's knowledge.
SEE: Ohioans not told how license photos used (Enquirer)
The use of facial recognition software has far-reaching civil rights implications for all Ohioans, and certain faith communities have already started to experience difficulties. In addition to First Amendment and privacy concerns in general, there are specific concerns about the ways facial recognition images are being captured at the BMV.
Some CAIR-Ohio offices are already receiving complaints from Muslim women who were asked to pull back their headscarves to expose the hairline and ears while taking photos for their driver's license. Sikh men and women have also reported being asked to remove their turbans in order to reveal the full face without covering any part of the forehead.
After being asked to pull her religious head scarf back for a license picture at her local BMV, Jill Lasheen, a Muslim woman from Ohio said:
"This incident left me feeling angry at having to sacrifice my sense of modesty to meet what I felt was an unreasonable policy. I felt strongly that the request to expose hair was beyond the scope of what should be necessary; the main facial features should be sufficient to produce a satisfactory identification. Their policy is degrading and insensitive to Muslim women and perhaps people of other faiths. I hope that more equitable and agreeable guidelines can be created to resolve this matter."
CAIR-Ohio sent a letter to state Attorney General Mike DeWine asking to participate in an advisory group that will develop guidelines surrounding the use of the software in law enforcement.
DeWine named all the members of the advisory committee on Thursday, and CAIR-Ohio and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were both denied participation. In fact, no civil rights groups were asked to join the discussion.
"The attorney general should have informed the legislature and sought public comment before implementing this new and potentially invasive technology," CAIR-Cleveland Executive Director Julia Shearson said. "Now his office has blundered again by not including privacy and civil liberties experts on the belatedly-formed commission that will help establish the guidelines after-the-fact for a program that is already up and running."
"Civil rights organization will bring a much-needed perspective on this discussion and will make sure that serious issues regarding privacy rights are addressed fully in the advisory committee's recommendations," said Romin Iqbal, CAIR-Ohio staff attorney. "CAIR-Ohio is also equipped to speak from a civil rights perspective about some of the religious expression concerns likely to impact Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and other religions that observe a form of head covering."
CAIR-Ohio is calling on community members to report their experiences at the BMV to their local CAIR chapter. The personal testimonies will help put a human face on this issue and clarify why civil rights groups are concerned about the facial recognition software's impact on religious communities.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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CONTACT: CAIR-Ohio Staff Attorney Romin Iqbal, Esq. 614.783.7953, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-Cleveland Executive Director Julia Shearson, 216.830.2247, email@example.com; CAIR-Columbus Acting Executive Director Hannah Tyler, 614.451.3232, firstname.lastname@example.org