Airports have been particularly invasive since the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2001. Since then, air travel has become quite unpleasant.
Invasive screenings, body scanners, and property searches are a major cause of irritation and inconvenience for those of us who are just trying to get from one place to another. And now, they're adding another way to invade your privacy.
Facial recognition systems are coming to an airport near you.
Unfortunately, some airports are already using facial recognition systems, and more will be soon. While some say this will make getting through security screenings faster, others aren't too thrilled about using their face as a boarding pass, and privacy concerns abound.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is suing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in an effort to stop the unwarranted searches of the biometric data of American citizens.
Here's a bit of background on the Biometric Entry-Exit program and EPIC's lawsuit:
The CBP's implementation of a Comprehensive Biometric Entry/Exit Plan currently includes the testing of facial recognition and iris imaging capabilities at exit/entry points within the US. The FY 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act provides up to a $1 billion for the CBP biometric entry/exit program and President Trump's Executive Order "Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States" (Executive Order 13780 of March 6, 2017) explicitly calls on CBP to "expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry exit tracking system."
These techniques pose significant threats to privacy and civil liberties, in particular the ability to conduct facial recognition covertly, remotely and on a mass scale. The lack of precautions that can be taken to prevent the collection of one's facial image, in addition to the absence of well-defined federal regulations controlling the collection, use, dissemination, and retention of biometric identifiers, raises serious privacy concerns for the individual. Identification through these processes eliminates an individual's ability to control their identities and poses a specific risk to the First Amendment rights of free association and free expression. (source)
Facial recognition is coming to the 20 biggest airports in America.
CBP is rolling out the facial-recognition systems at the nation's 20 top airports, and this is just the beginning.
The systems are designed to verify the identities of passengers entering and exiting the country by measuring unique facial "landmarks," such as the distance between the eyes or from forehead to chin, and cross-checking that data with passport photos already on file.
The biometric systems are already in use at some airports, and they could be in place everywhere as early as October 2020. They're similar to the biometric systems that some airlines have begun using to simplify and speed up the departure process. (source)
By 2021, 97% of all outbound international travelers will be scanned.
The documents show that CBP is rushing to implement the biometric system within the next two years, 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 US).