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10 December
Tuesday

World

USA scans people faces at airports

It allows the government to increase control over society

Photo: BuzzFeed News

/NOVOSTIVL/ In March 2017, President Trump issued an executive order expediting the deployment of biometric verification of the identities of all travelers crossing US borders. That mandate stipulates facial recognition identification for “100 percent of all international passengers,” including American citizens, in the top 20 US airports by 2021. Now, the United States Department of Homeland Security is rushing to get those systems up and running at airports across the country. This article appeared in the BuzzFeed News.

According to 346 pages of documents obtained by the nonprofit research organization Electronic Privacy Information US Customs and Border Protection is scrambling to implement this “biometric entry-exit system,” with the goal of using facial recognition technology on travelers aboard 16,300 flights per week — or more than 100 million passengers traveling on international flights out of the United States — in as little as two years, to meet Trump's accelerated timeline for a biometric system that had initially been signed into law by the Obama administration. This, despite questionable biometric confirmation rates and few, if any, legal guardrails.

These same documents state — explicitly — that there were no limits on how partnering airlines can use this facial recognition data. CBP did not answer specific questions about whether there are any guidelines for how other technology companies involved in processing the data can potentially also use it. It was only during a data privacy meeting last December that CBP made a sharp turn and limited participating companies from using this data. But it is unclear to what extent it has enforced this new rule. CBP did not explain what its current policies around data sharing of biometric information with participating companies and third-party firms are.

The documents also suggest that CBP skipped portions of a critical “rulemaking process,” which requires the agency to solicit public feedback before adopting technology intended to be broadly used on civilians, something privacy advocates back up. This is worrisome because — beyond its privacy, surveillance, and free speech implications — facial recognition technology is currently troubled by issues of inaccuracy and bias. Last summer, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that Amazon’s facial recognition technology falsely matched 28 members of Congress with arrest mugshots. These false matches were disproportionately people of color.

In the US, there are no laws governing the use of facial recognition. Courts have not ruled on whether it constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. There are no checks, no balances. Yet government agencies are working quickly to roll it out in every major airport in the country. It’s already being used in seventeen international airports, among them: Atlanta, New York City, Boston, San Jose, Chicago, and two airports in Houston.

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