Timing, planning color view of new program

Unfortunate timing and backwards planning have combined to undercut the image of a new tool for law enforcement in Ohio.

The Cincinnati Enquirer first reported local and state law enforcement now can use facial recognition software to match images of possible suspects and victims to pictures on Ohio drivers’ licenses.

Last summer, or even last spring – before Edward Snowden revealed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court let the National Security Agency snoop into cellphone records, emails and Facebook postings – this wouldn’t have been so disconcerting.

The system itself is just a more efficient way of doing what investigators already could do – try to match photos of suspects or victims with faces and names on file. The electronic method is faster, and can be more accurate. Anyone who has watched crime solvers on TV shows has seen a representation of this.

But Attorney General Mike DeWine didn’t help by allowing the facial recognition program to launch before conducting a public debate about privacy concerns and ironing out security protocols.

Again, the timing was tough; the system went into use June 6, about the time Americans were learning details about federal surveillance efforts. But if the public had been apprised of plans for the facial recognition system – and of rules for how it could be used – well before its launch, DeWine could have avoided handing his opponent an issue to use against him.