Utah’s Republican and Democratic leaders say they want assurances residents’ driver license data isn’t being misused

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) New Senate President Stuart Adams conducts business in the Utah State Senate on the first day of the 2019 legislative session at the Utah State Capitol, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.

Republican and Democratic leaders from Utah’s Legislature on Tuesday said they will “closely monitor” reports that the state gave federal immigration officials access to driver license records and will take action if need be.

In a joint statement, the lawmakers simultaneously affirmed the importance of personal privacy and expressed confidence in the Utah Department of Public Safety, which maintains the driver information.

"We are eager to learn more of their efforts to ensure personal data of Utahns, including the use of driver's license information for facial recognition searches, are protected from misuse by any agency," Senate President Stuart Adams, House Speaker Brad Wilson, Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne and House Minority Leader Brian King said in the prepared remarks. "While their work is important, equally important is the privacy of Utahns."

Utah’s public safety officials on Monday said they do not allow immigration officials or law enforcement agencies to use facial recognition software to trawl through state driver databases on open-ended fishing expeditions.

The Washington Post and The New York Times reported over the weekend that documents show Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the FBI mined driver license databases in several states — including Utah — using facial recognition technology, analyzing millions of motorists’ photos without their knowledge.

A Utah public safety spokeswoman said the agency does conduct limited facial recognition searches of its driver photo database — both of citizens and noncitizens — at the request of outside agencies including ICE for suspected criminals, one case at a time.

In their statement, legislative leaders said any search of state driving records should be “authorized by law, done in a careful and limited manner, and effectively balance privacy concerns with law enforcement and public safety needs.”

They also said they have asked the Government Operations Interim Committee to hold meetings if necessary.