Scott Suspends DMV Facial Recognition Program, Pending Legal Review

May 25, 2017

Gov. Phil Scott ordered the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend a facial recognition system on Thursday, days after the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union called for a halt to the program.

In an interview Wednesday, DMV Commissioner Robert Ide said the program would continue while the state conducts a legal review of the program. A statement from Gov. Phil Scott’s office on Thursday said the governor ordered the program suspended until officials determine whether it is legal or not.

“Despite initial details indicating the use of the facial recognition program is compliant with state and federal law, it has come to the administration’s attention that a thorough legal analysis on use of the program has not yet been completed,” wrote Scott spokeswoman Rebecca Kelley in an email statement. “In the absence of that legal opinion, Governor Phil Scott has directed the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend use of the facial recognition program pending a legal analysis from the Attorney General’s Office.”

In a letter to Ide this week, ACLU attorney Jay Diaz said the facial recognition program violates a Vermont state law passed in 2004 that bans the use of biometrics on DMV applicants. Ide argues that the program is legal because people who have their photo taken at the DMV have already qualified for the document they are seeking and are therefore not applicants at the time the photos are taken.