Homeland Security Fast Tracks Facial Recognition for All US Airports

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are on a fast track to make facial recognition identification a reality in all major US airports by 2021.

Recall that the President Donald Trump in 2017 had issued an executive order hastening the deployment of biometric verification of all travellers crossing US borders. The executive particularly specified facial recognition for all both Americans and international passengers.

The mandate for biometric implementation had initially been signed into law by the Obama administration.

The DHS is now on a time crunch to get those implementations running across the top 20 airports in the country. But it is doing so without proper regulatory standards and safeguards and proper vetting which is in direct defiance of the law.

According to a 346-paged leaked document released by Electronic Privacy Information Center – a non-profit research organization – the US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) has been moving quickly with plans to implement a ‘biometric entry-exit system’.

This involves using a facial recognition tech to scan passengers aboard 16,300 flights per week – a process that will include more than 100 million passengers traveling on international flights out of US soil.

The leaked documents disclosed that there were no limitations to how airlines could use the data from the facial recognition. There were no indications as to any guidelines other tech companies involved in processing the data could use it.

The document also revealed that the CBP had already skipped some vital rulemaking process, which demands the agency to solicit for public feedback before putting the technology in place.

This is disturbing because in recent times facial recognition tech has had issues of not only bias but inaccuracies. Last year, Amazon facial recognition tech wrongly matched 28 Congressmen to arrest mugshots—all of which turned out to be people of colour.

In reponse, CBP has stated there shouldn’t be any privacy concerns pertaining to the program, as it they are committed to protect the privacy of all travellers.

While there are no laws regulating the use of facial recognition, international airports in New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Jose, Houston including major airport operations companies are already using the tech.