DHS Facial Recognition Scanners To Be Deployed At Top 20 Airports By 2021

The Department of Homeland Security is rushing to implement a March 2017 executive order issued by President Trump mandating the use of facial recognition to identify “100 percent of all international passengers” – including American citizens, according to BuzzFeed

Originally signed into law by President Obama in 2015, Trump’s EO accelerates the program, which will be implemented by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in 20 top US airports by 2021 (Of note, seventeen international airports already use facial recognition, including “Atlanta, New York City, Boston, San Jose, Chicago, and two airports in Houston”).  

Many major airlines are on board with the idea — Delta, JetBlue, British Airways, Lufthansa, and American Airlines. Airport operations companies, including Los Angeles World Airports, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, Mineta San Jose International Airport, Miami International Airport, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, are also involved. –BuzzFeed

According to a 346-pages of “as-yet-unpublished” documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center and reviewed by BuzzFeed News, US Customs and Border Protection is furiously rushing to meet the deadline for this “biometric entry-exit system” – which will use facial recognition technology on more than 100 million passengers in as little as two years, or roughly 16,300 flights per week. 

As BuzzFeed notes, the biometric systems are being implemented “despite questionable biometric confirmation rates and few, if any, legal guardrails.”

What’s more, there are no limits to how airlines can use facial recognition data

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, but it did say that the agency “retains photos … for up to 14 days” of non-US citizens departing the country, for “evaluation of the technology” and “assurance of the accuracy of the algorithms” — which implies such photos might be used for further training of its facial matching AI. –BuzzFeed

“CBP is solving a security challenge by adding a convenience for travelers,” said an agency spokesperson in an email to BuzzFeed. “By partnering with airports and airlines to provide a secure stand-alone system that works quickly and reliably, which they will integrate into their boarding process, CBP does not have to rebuild everything from the ground up as we drive innovation across the travel experience.” 

Meanwhile, it appears that CBP has simply skipped part of the “rulemaking process” – foregoing public feedback prior to implementing the technology. Beyond “privacy, surveillance and free speech implications,” this is worrisome according to BuzzFeed, which notes that last summer the ACLU reported that Amazon’s facial recognition technology falsely matched 28 members of congress with arrest mugshots. 

According to a Homeland Security OIG reportCBP was able to provide biometric confirmation for just 85% of passengers processed, while mexican and Canadian citizens were “particularly problematic” reports BuzzFeed

“The low 85-percent biometric confirmation rate poses questions as to whether CBP will meet its milestone to confirm all foreign departures at the top 20 US airports by fiscal year 2021,” said the audit – while a spokesperson said that the rate has risen to 98.6% since the report. 

“I think it’s important to note what the use of facial recognition

means for American citizens,” said Jeramie Scott – director of EPIC’s Domestic Surveillance Project. “It means the government, without consulting the public, a requirement by Congress, or consent from any individual, is using facial recognition to create a digital ID of millions of Americans.” 

“CBP took images from the State Department that were submitted to obtain a passport and decided to use them to track travelers in and out of the country,” said Scott. 

“Facial recognition is becoming normalized as an infrastructure for checkpoint control,” said ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley. “It’s an extremely powerful surveillance technology that has the potential to do things never before done in human history. Yet the government is hurtling along a path towards its broad deployment — and in this case, a deployment that seems quite unjustified and unnecessary.”

CBP has suggested that privacy concerns are overblown, and that “CBP is committed to protecting the privacy of all travelers and has issued several Privacy Impact Assessments related to [its biometric entry-exit program], employed strong technical security safeguards, and has limited the amount of personally identifiable information used in the transaction,” according to an agency spokesperson.  Read more: https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-03-11/dhs-facial-recognition-scanners-be-deployed-top-20-airports-2021

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