The DEA is photographing your face while you drive

New documents paint a picture of intentional surveillance on a mass scale.

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George RoseGetty Images

The Drug Enforcement Administration is gathering facial photos of American motorists and their passengers through the use of technology designed to scan license plates. According to new documents published by the , the DEA has successfully photographed individuals seated in both the front and back of automobiles, amassing "millions" of bits of information that is stored in a massive database.

As reported by , a 2011 document states that the DEA is capable of snapping up to 10 photos per vehicle, including four passenger photos. Unlike prior national security revelations which describe certain forms of data collection as accidental, the DEA's methods appear highly intentional:

The documents confirmed that license plate scanners did not always focus just on license plates, the ACLU said on Thursday: "Occupant photos are not an occasional, accidental byproduct of the technology, but one that is intentionally being cultivated."

Using the technology in this way undermined law enforcement agencies claims that license plate images could not be used to identify individuals and did not violate individual privacy, said the ACLU. "This argument is thin already, but it certainly doesnt fly with regards to photographs of the driver or passengers inside of a vehicle."

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