In March, The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held its first meeting of the legislative year in Dallas, Texas.
It was the largest ever ALEC meeting, attracting over 3,000 members, and the second largest in Texas, according to the ALEC website.
The group, known for advancing corporate interests in state government, has since been dubbed “the ALEC of surveillance,” for the way in which it has developed sophisticated software for identifying political opponents and activists, both public and private.
The company’s software has been deployed in a variety of ways across state legislatures, including through ALEC’s own Voter Activation Project, which it describes as “a network of state legislators” that “ensures that members of the ALEC membership have the opportunity to voice their concerns about legislation before it reaches the state legislature.”
The technology ALEC developed for the project is called Facial Recognition Toolkit (FART).
The software is a combination of facial recognition technology, a facial-recognition database, and facial-intrusion sensors, and can be used to detect a person’s physical movements, as well as their facial expressions.
In order to access the system, a member of the public must complete a form, sign a form stating their “true identity,” and submit a photo.
The form can be found on the ALEC websites Facial recognition technology has been widely deployed across the US, including by the National Security Agency (NSA) and in the US military, as shown in a screenshot below: While the technology has received considerable attention over the years, it has been mostly confined to state and local government, with its deployment primarily aimed at political opponents of the Trump administration.
The ALEC Facial Identification Toolkit was developed by ALEC, and used by the company to collect data from a number of public officials and private citizens.
It is a powerful tool, but the privacy implications have become increasingly apparent as time has passed.
A leaked email, released in October 2017, from a member named James Sibold, shows how the company uses facial recognition to collect and share information on individuals, including individuals who may not be identified by other means.
The email, which has been circulating for years, describes the process of the Facial Identity Toolkit, which “provides an ‘open-source’ solution to the complex task of creating an electronic fingerprint for use in facial recognition systems.”
The email describes how the toolkit is “used by [ALEC] to gather facial image data from public officials” and then uses “a system of algorithms to identify the person with a face-recognized face.”
In the email, the company goes on to explain how it has “developed an algorithm that can recognize and identify the face of a person by analyzing their face’s position in relation to their surroundings,” which can then be used by “ALEC to generate a facial image.”
It goes on, “ALC is using facial recognition for the purposes of political identification and to create profiles for public officials who have been approved by the ALEC Ethics Board.”
“This process allows us to determine which of our members are political operatives, or are otherwise political opponents,” the email continues.
“This information can then then be utilized in order to target these individuals and groups in order as well.”
The leaked email indicates that the Facicile Identity ToolKit is only being used in the states that have adopted ALEC’s Voter Activations Project, a project that was introduced in 2016 and is designed to “advance the interests of corporations, individuals, and organizations on behalf of their interests.”
The ALEC Voter Activism Project has become a lightning rod for criticism in the wake of revelations of its existence.
According to The Intercept, the project “was originally developed by the corporate-funded organization ALEC for the purpose of ‘research and education,’ and has been used by ALEC members to promote ALEC’s agenda.”
The Intercept also reported that a number “private citizens” have been caught using the tool, and that some of them were “filed complaints with the Texas State Elections Commission and the Texas Ethics Commission.”
The Texas Ethics Board has also begun investigating the Facifly Identity Toolkits use of public records and other information, and has called the system “inappropriate.”
“The ALEC Facifily Identity Tool Kit, however, is not limited to Texas,” The Intercept reported.
“The software can be easily used to collect information from all over the country, and could be used in states across the country as well.
We are particularly concerned by the use of this technology in Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas, where ALEC is active and legislators are not required to disclose their personal information to the public.”
In June, ALEC’s Texas chapter issued a statement calling on the Texas state legislature to “take swift action” to end the use and sharing of facial images in their state.
In response, the Texas legislature passed a law requiring public officials to disclose the facial image databases that they use in their districts, and requiring public employees to provide their own photos to their