The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a regulation that will ensure the use of facial recognition technology for all travelers arriving at and leaving the United States, including citizens.
Until now, U.S. citizens were exempted from the use of such technology and it was only used for visa holders and visitors.
“To facilitate the implementation of a seamless biometric entry-exit system that uses facial recognition and to help prevent persons attempting to fraudulently use U.S. travel documents and identify criminals and known or suspected terrorists, DHS is proposing to amend the regulations to provide that all travelers, including U.S. citizens, may be required to be photographed upon entry and/or departure,” DHS stated in an official filing.
But wouldn’t it be a violation of citizens’ privacy? One of the biggest civil liberties unions, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) calls it “intrusive surveillance technology” and unfair burden on citizens using their “constitutional right to travel.”
ACLU has argued that there is a large potential for misuse of technology for abuses of power due to data breaches and bias in the system. The civil rights union will only take action once the full proposal is available.
Facial recognition tech has many facets and its implementation at a government level is problematic at the very least. While the DHS wants to roll it out at the top 20 U.S. airports by 2021, the inaccuracies in the tech, network problems and shortage of trained staff to use it may cause issues for such implementation, rising concerns. However, for it to be implemented, President Donald Trump will need to expand the powers of the DHS in the first place which would in all probability create a debate if it goes for approval to Congress.
Facial recognition is actually being widely used. Most smartphones, including Apple’s iPhones, have a facial recognition-based phone unlocking system. It is also being used in many private companies. Since it is already being partially used at U.S., airports, expanding the system is more of a political issue than a technical issue.
Any inaccuracies could result in a potential court case against the government for infringement of constitutional rights as has been indicated by ACLU’s objections.
Furthermore, the tech, to be implemented en masse, will need to be fool-proof so that it cannot be used by fraudsters– which would defeat the purpose of the regulation.
It’s not like it cannot be used in a mala fide manner – The U.S. government has itself sanctioned many Chinese facial recognition firms for supplying the Chinese government with tech used to prosecute Uighur Muslims.
Widespread use of facial recognition remains a grey area, despite the proposed regulation. Will it ensure greater security, cut down on illegal immigration or violate privacy rights? Only it’s implementation will tell.