MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The US Government Will Be Scanning Your Face At 20 Top Airports, Documents Show

Posted by M. C. on March 11, 2019

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.

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/daveyalba/these-documents-reveal-the-governments-detailed-plan-for

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. But it’s doing so in the absence of proper vetting, regulatory safeguards, and what some privacy advocates argue is in defiance of the law.

According to 346 pages of documents obtained by the nonprofit research organization Electronic Privacy Information Center — shared exclusively with BuzzFeed News and made public on Monday as part of Sunshine Week — 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…

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.

“I think it’s important to note what the use of facial recognition [in airports] means for American citizens,” Jeramie Scott, director of EPIC’s Domestic Surveillance Project, told BuzzFeed News in an interview. “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,” Scott said.

“Facial recognition is becoming normalized as an infrastructure for checkpoint control,” said Jay Stanley, an American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst and a participant at meetings that CBP has organized with privacy advocates. “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 officers also have wide latitude for how to handle travelers whose faces are obscured for religious reasons. A previously unpublished document detailing the standard operating procedure for the TVS described how officers may deal with airplane passengers donning religious headwear. “For travelers with religious headwear that covers their face, officer discretion may be used consistent with CBP Policy,” it says.

There were also issues with matching. The OIG audit, which covered fieldwork by DHS from August to December 2017, a time that TVS was actively in use, found that CBP was able to provide biometric confirmation for only 85% of passengers processed. Its matches for certain age groups and nationalities were inconsistent; Mexican and Canadian citizens were particularly problematic. (It’s worth noting that the CBP’s Concept of Operations document includes some discussion of “a data exchange with Mexico and Canada.”)

“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,” the audit said. Confirmation rates for CBP’s biometric exit system have since risen to 98.6%, according to an agency spokesperson.

OIG also found that CBP had “not previously established a metric for photo matching.” The way the TVS algorithm works, according to the OIG report, the threshold can be set to strict limits on what it considers a match but which would result in a lower verification percentage, or to a lower setting that would verify more people but also likely increase false positives…

“This will enable … verified biometrics for check-in, baggage drop, security checkpoints, lounge access, boarding, and other processes,” the document says. “This will create simplified and standardized wayfinding across airports.”

In other words: surveillance throughout the airport…

Be seeing you

TSA

Your Recognition Alternative to Facial Recognition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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