Six major US airports now scan Americans’ faces when they leave country


The Department of Homeland Security has been pushing a plan that if enacted would require all Americans submit to a facial-recognition scan when departing the country. This step would be a way to expand a 2004 biometric-tracking law meant to target foreigners.

According to the Associated Press, which first reported the plan on Wednesday, facial-scanning pilot programs are already underway at six American airports—Boston, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, New York City, and Washington DC. More are set to expand next year.

In a recent privacy assessment, DHS noted that the “only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling.”

In recent years, facial recognition has become more common amongst federal and local law enforcement: a 2016 Georgetown study found that half of adult Americans are already in such biometric databases.

“Americans expect when they fly overseas that their luggage is going to be looked into,” Harrison Rudolph, a Georgetown legal fellow, told Ars. “What they don’t expect is their face is going to be scanned. This is an expansion of a program that was never authorized for US citizens.”

John Wagner, the Customs and Border Protection official in charge of the program, said that the agency will delete such scans within 14 days. But he also said that the agency may keep scans longer after it goes “through the appropriate privacy reviews and approvals.”

In May 2017, Wagner and Michael Dougherty, a top CBP official, told a House subcommittee that Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, has been testing biometric scans since last summer.

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Source: ARS Technica