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Feds Instituting Facial Scans Of Passengers on International Flights, Raising Civil Liberties Concerns

by Countable | 12.22.17

What’s the story?

Did you know that in nearly three dozen countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa governments collect fingerprints, iris scans, and photographs that can be used for facial recognition of people leaving their countries? The U.S. has been trying to catch up. Congress appropriated $1 billion to expand biometric scan technology into all U.S. airports with international terminals in 2018.

But following a pilot project that introduced facial recognition scan technology into a dozen U.S. airports, researchers are raising questions about what they call "invasive surveillance technology" reports the New York Times.

Laura Moy, who helped write the report detailing the study conducted by the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University’s law school argues that the Department of Homeland Security is proceeding with a full rollout of the program without going through a required federal rule-making process:

"They can change their minds on how they use this data at any time, because they haven’t put policies in place that govern how it’s supposed to be used. This invasive system needs more transparency, and homeland security officials need to address the legal and privacy concerns about this system, before they move forward."

John Wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner for field operations at Customs and Border Protection insists that the agency would comply with a federal process to address concerns before the face scanning system was used at all international terminals at American airports. In addition to the billion dollars in funding, Congress has passed seven separate laws requiring biometric entry-exit screening since 2004, proving the need Wagner argues.

What do you think?

Do you have concerns about the federal government collecting facial scans of U.S. citizens in addition to international travelers, or not? Do you think security needs take precedence over civil liberties, or that there’s some reasonable balance between the two issues?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons)

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