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The US Abandons Plans To Use Facial Recognition At Airport

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The Department of Homeland Security is changing its mind on requiring US citizens to use facial recognition scanners at Airports. Proposed last week, the policy requires all US citizens to have their faces scanned and added to a biometric database. This is for citizens traveling internationally.


Face scan. Photo: Intesa Sapaolo.


The government has now abandoned this policy. US citizens will not have to participate in facial recognition tracking at airports because of the cancellation. Customs and Border Protection announced this on Wednesday, 4th December 2019.


CBP said the change of mind was as a result of conversations with “privacy experts,” lawmakers, and travel-industry stakeholders.


John Wagner, a Border Patrol said in a statement:


“CBP is committed to keeping the public informed about our use of facial comparison technology,” 


He also said:


“We are implementing a biometric entry-exit system that protects the privacy of all travelers while making travel more secure and convenient.”

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Backlash From Privacy And Human Rights Advocates

Foreign nationals already go through the procedure when entering the United States. However, when CBP announced that it would expand that requirement to US citizens last week. The proposed rule sparked a backlash from privacy and human rights advocates.


Jay Stanley, American Civil Liberties Union analyst said in a statement to Federal Computer Week:


“This proposal never should have been issued, and it is positive that the government is withdrawing it after growing opposition from the public and lawmakers,”


Additionally, he said:


“But the fact remains that the agency attempted to renege on what was already an insufficient promise, and has not yet committed to ensuring that immigrants will not be forced to submit to this program.”


In the policy, U.S. citizens may opt-out of the biometric facial comparison process. This is by notifying a CBP officer or airline representative. Individuals who opt-out simply present their passport for visual inspection, as is standard practice at ports of entry today.


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