Size of existing photo databases

Have facial-recognition systems, let police search or request searches. 26 states

Have facial-recognition systems, generally do not allow law enforcement searches. 11 states and D.C.

Do not have facial-recognition systems for driver’s license photos. 13 states

The State Department has about 230 million photos from passports and visas

The FBI has about 15 million photos of people who have been arrested or convicted of crimes

The Department of Defense has about 6 million photos, mainly of Iraqis and Afghans

At least 107 million photos in 26 states

At least 38 million photos in 11 states and the District of Columbia

At least 65 million photos in 13 states

Federal agencies with
facial-recognition systems


Under scrutiny

Databases created for other purposes -- mainly driver's license registries -- are increasingly being used to identify criminal suspects. Government officials can find out who you are based on your facial image, even if you've never been arrested for any crime. Read related article.

An example of facial recgonition technology in use in Pinellas County, FL.

Photo from Florida's Facial Recognition Network by Edward Linsmier /For The Washington Post

How it works

Facial-recognition systems analyze a person’s features -- such as the shape of eyes, the curl of earl lobes, the width of noses — to produce a digitized “template” that can be quickly compared to other faces in a database. State driver's-license officers use the systems to detect identity fraud. Though not yet as reliable as fingerprints, the systems are part of an evolving suite of software used by law enforcement agencies.

*Numbers do not include non-driver ID cards. There are at least 13 million people with non-driver ID cards in the 26 states that allow police access to their facial-recognition systems.

SOURCES: State driver's-license registries, FBI, State Department and Defense Department.
GRAPHIC: Darla Cameron and Craig Timberg - The Washington Post. Published June 14, 2013.