DOL statement regarding facial recognition technology

July 8, 2019

DOL logoJuly 8, 2019 For Immediate Release.

News Reports – ICE and the FBI using facial recognition technology to scan state driver’s license databases.

Statement from Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen:

“National news reports about federal law enforcement and immigration officials’ use of state facial recognition databases has led to a high level of misunderstanding and confusion about how our state Department of Licensing protects this data. Our DOL has implemented strict standards to ensure data is not released to any law enforcement entity for immigration purposes or without a judicial court order or subpoena. There is no external access to the Facial Recognition System. System access is limited to very few specially trained DOL staff. We take very seriously our responsibility to protect the data and information of all Washingtonians.”

Background

The Washington Post reported ICE and the FBI using facial recognition technology to scan state driver’s license databases, including photos of legal residents and citizens. The Department of Licensing does not provide access to our Facial Recognition System to local, state, or federal law enforcement entities. They must provide the agency with a court order signed by a judge.

The New York Times states “agents authorized administrative subpoenas of the Department of Licensing to conduct a facial recognition scan of all photos of license applicants, though it was unclear whether the state carried out the searches.” The agency received 53 requests through court order or subpoena since 2013. Thirteen of those were federal requests. None have been received from 2017 to present. The remaining 40 were from local and state law enforcement entities.

Federal requests include:

  • One – U.S. Department of Justice
  • Two – Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Four – Department of Homeland Security/Immigrations and Customs Enforcement
  • Six – U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

If a match was found through any request during this time, DOL would provide limited identity information.

DOL’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology

  • KUOW ran the headline “ICE uses Washington driver’s licenses to hunt immigrants for deportation, researchers say.” This is incorrect. No entity has access to DOL’s facial recognition system. They would provide a photo and DOL would conduct the research.
  • Law enforcement entities have no access to “mine” DOL’s state driver’s license databases using facial recognition technology.
  • As of February 2018, all requests must be court ordered.

DOL’s Facial Recognition Process

  • After receiving a court-ordered subpoena, DOL performs a search by comparing the photo provided by a law enforcement entity with DOL’s database. If a match occurs between the photo provided by the entity with a photo in DOL’s database, DOL provides the individual’s first, middle, and last name, date of birth, and ID or driver license number.
  • The Department of Licensing does the research. There is no direct external access to the facial recognition system. System access is limited to very few specially trained DOL staff.

Immigration and Citizenship Status                                                                        

  • The Department of Licensing does not collect information regarding a person’s immigration or citizenship status.
  • The Department of Licensing does not collect place of birth.
  • The Department of Licensing does not provide Social Security numbers.

Governor’s Executive Orders

  • The Department of Licensing is committed to following the Governor’s Executive Order 17-01 Reaffirming Washington’s commitment to Tolerance, Diversity and inclusiveness.
  • We fully comply with Executive Order 16-01, Privacy Protection and Transparency in State Government. We only collect information that is necessary to perform our agency duties to establish identification and driving privileges.

Reminder: All boat registration renewals in Washington state are due by June 30

June 7, 2019

Boat registrations in Washington must be renewed by June 30.

As boating season revs up, make sure you’re not left high and dry. To stay valid, boat registrations are due to be renewed by June 30 each year in Washington state.

Registration decals are good for one year, beginning on July 1. If your boat is currently registered, go online to renew for the coming year. You can also visit a vehicle/vessel licensing office.

If your registration is expired:

  • You can renew online for the current registration year only (before June 30).
  • You can renew online for the coming registration year only after you’ve renewed for the current year.
  • If you have not registered for the current year and wish to renew for the coming year, visit a vehicle/vessel licensing office after July 1.

If you are purchasing a boat or bringing one in from out of state, you must register it within 15 days.

Want to receive reminders by email? Sign up at the Department of Licensing website — just scroll to the bottom and click on “Get or update email reminders.” It takes less than a minute.

If you need further assistance, please call 360-902-3770 or email CustomerCare@dol.wa.gov.


DOL Director Teresa Berntsen receives Building Bridges Across the Nation Award

June 4, 2019

Sanjay Panda, right, consul general of India (San Francisco), presents an award to DOL Director Teresa Berntsen on May 30 in Seattle.

Since becoming director of the Department of Licensing in 2018, Teresa Berntsen has made it a priority to build productive relationships with cross-cultural and underserved communities. She moved quickly to create the agency’s first Office of Equity and Inclusion, whose goal is to ensure everyone has a voice in how they access information and services. She implemented mandatory training for all DOL employees to help develop cultural competencies in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. And she’s the driving force behind the agency’s outreach efforts, including an ongoing campaign to prepare all Washington residents — regardless of citizenship status — for air travel ID law changes coming in 2020.

Most importantly, she has made a difference. That was the key takeaway last week in Seattle, where she was honored with the Building Bridges Across the Nation Award by the Washington State India Trade Relations Action Committee (WASITRAC).

Speaking to a packed room of 60 community leaders, many representing the South Asian community in Washington state and beyond, DOL Deputy Chief Information Officer Vel Rajagopal said Berntsen’s core value is to treat everyone with dignity and respect.

“Her biggest strength as a leader is her willingness to be vulnerable,” Rajagopal said. “She considers vulnerability not a weakness, but a strength that brings out the authentic self. I have been personally inspired by her humility and compassion toward the communities we serve.”

Also honored at the event were Rita Meher of Tasveer.org, Washington State Supreme Court Justice Steven Gonzalez, and Justice Ketu Shah of the King County District Court.


DOL commemorates renewal of driver licensing agreement with Taiwan

May 23, 2019

DOL Director Teresa Berntsen, right, welcomed Alex Fan, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, for a reciprocity agreement renewal signing Thursday.

The Department of Licensing on Thursday commemorated the renewal of an agreement that makes it easier for drivers from Taiwan or Washington state to transfer a license from one place to the other.

The reciprocity agreement allows Taiwan nationals living in Washington, such as college students, to skip the driving and written licensing exams if they are already licensed to drive in Taiwan. Washington residents living in Taiwan have the same option.

In the five years since the initial deal was reached, more than 2,300 Taiwanese drivers have obtained Washington driver licenses through the reciprocity process.

Renewal of the pact was formalized in a signing ceremony in the office of DOL Director Teresa Berntsen, who was joined by Policy and Legislative Director Beau Perschbacher. Representing Taiwan were Alex Fan, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle, and consulate Tony, Nien-Tzu, Hu.

“The signing of this agreement highlights the strong relationship between the state of Washington and Taiwan,” Berntsen said. “It also demonstrates our joint commitment to streamline the licensing process.”

Drivers from Taiwan seeking a Washington license will need to visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle to have their current license properly translated and verified prior to visiting a DOL licensing service office.

DOL has reciprocity agreements with four other jurisdictions: British Columbia, Germany, South Korea, and Japan.


Spokane Valley licensing service office changing its hours effective July 2, 2019

May 17, 2019

DOL logoEffective Tuesday, July 2, the Spokane Valley licensing service office is changing its hours as follows:

  • Tuesday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Thursday: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Friday: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Saturday: 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The Spokane Valley office is located at 12801 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane, WA 99216. It can be reached by phone at 509-921-2358.

The following services will continue to be available:

  • Apply for a new driver license or instruction permit.
  • Get an ID card.
  • Apply for an enhanced driver license/ID card (EDL/EID).
  • Renew a driver license, ID card, or EDL/EID.
  • Change the name or address on your driver license.
  • Request a copy of your driving record.
  • Replace a lost or stolen driver license, ID card, or EDL/EID.
  • Take a CDL knowledge test.

Driver license testing and motorcycle testing are not offered at the Spokane Valley office.

Hours for the Spokane office, located at 9107 N. Country Homes Blvd., Spokane, WA 99218, remain unchanged. It is open Monday through Friday.

See all licensing service office locations.


East Vancouver licensing service office switching to Monday-Friday schedule starting July 1, 2019

May 15, 2019

DOL logoThe East Vancouver licensing office is switching to a Monday-Friday schedule to better serve the needs of area residents. Effective July 1, 2019, this office — located at 1301 NE 136th Ave. — will be open as follows:

  • Monday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Thursday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Friday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

To prepare for this change, the office will be closed Saturday, June 29. The North Vancouver office, located at 9609 NE 117th Ave. (building 27, suite 2730), is staying on a Tuesday-Saturday schedule, or you can find an alternate location.

The following services will continue to be available at the East Vancouver office:

  • Apply for a new driver license or instruction permit.
  • Get an ID card.
  • Apply for an enhanced driver license/ID card (EDL/EID).
  • Renew a driver license, ID card, or EDL/EID.
  • Change the name or address on your driver license.
  • Request a copy of your driving record.
  • Replace a lost or stolen driver license, ID card, or EDL/EID.
  • Take a CDL knowledge test.

Driver license testing and motorcycle testing are not offered at the East Vancouver office.

Many services are available online.

The East Vancouver office can be reached at 360-260-6288.


How DOL’s efforts will support Gov. Inslee’s executive order for veterans and their families

May 13, 2019

Lourdes E. “Alfie” Alvarado-Ramos, director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs, speaks Monday at the signing of Executive Order 19-01 in Olympia.

As part of an executive order signed Monday by Gov. Jay Inslee, essential new services are on the way to help veterans, military spouses, and their families build stable lives and careers in Washington state.

The Department of Licensing is honored to support these efforts.

As the executive order outlines, one way we may be able to help is to expedite the issuance of credentials — including licenses, certifications, registrations, and permits — for transitioning service members, Reserve and National Guard members, and military spouses who reside in or are relocating to Washington state. This may mean, for example, recognizing comparable military experience and credentials issued by the military and other states; pursuit of interstate compacts that allow for reciprocal recognition of comparable credentials; and issuance of temporary or provisional licenses.

More broadly, we’ll take further steps to increase the employment representation of veterans and military spouses at DOL. It’s all part of our purpose of helping all Washington residents live, work, drive, and thrive.