Ohio’s Driver’s License Image Database Used By FBI

Most of us despise our Ohio driver’s license photograph. As unflattering as they are, their use may go well beyond providing it upon request during a routine traffic stop.

Ohio Driver's License photo may be used by police to identify those accused of criminal activity

Ohio, among 20 other states, is now reported to have shared access to its drivers’ license image database for facial recognition scans by the federal government. The city of San Francisco made headlines in May when it became the first city in the United States to ban the use of facial recognition technology for police and city agencies. City departments who want to access the surveillance technology are now required to get approval first. 

Records submitted to the Washington Post show that since 2011, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has conducted facial recognition searches of federal and local databases which include Ohio’s state motor vehicle records. This is significant because your picture is stored in a database accessible by the federal government, even where you are not a suspect or you have not been observed committing any criminal activity. Your Ohio driver’s license image can be digitally compared against an image from a live feed, such as a Columbus Police body camera, or by a recorded image, such as a still photo or recorded video. Law enforcement agencies across the country may also search your picture against computer-generated facial features or artist sketches.

The troubling impact of this is that neither Congress nor state legislatures have authorized the development of such a system, and have little to no oversight on how this biometric information is used. This opens the floodgates to pervasive and non-specific surveillance which breaches the public trust. 

As these reports emerge, members of Congress including the House Oversight Committee, have suggested a moratorium on the unregulated access to the images contained in the database. Until then, you may have more to worry about than just lying about those extra five pounds on your Ohio driver’s license.

If you’ve been accused of a crime, contact Columbus, Ohio criminal defense trial attorney Joe Edwards at 614-309-0243. Attorney Edwards has over 25 years of experience representing individuals charged at the state and federal levels.


Harwell, D. (2019, July 7).
FBI, ICE find state driver’s license photos are a gold mine for facial-recognition searches. The Washington Post, Retrieved from

Ludlow, R. (2019, July 8). Feds run old Ohio driver’s license photos through facial-recognition software. The Columbus Dispatch, Retrieved from

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