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Report: 20 major airports may get face recognition for international travelers by 2021

Report: 20 major airports may get face recognition for international travelers by 2021
[Photo: Tim Gouw/Pexels]

Some frequent fliers love the ease that comes with letting Clear and Delta and American Airlines use their biometric data to speed them through the airport security and boarding process. Simply flash your face or your finger and you’re on your way. However, the programs are entirely optional. You have to agree, and sometimes pay, to use them. That may change, though, for international passengers traveling through some of the largest airports in the United States in the very near future.

According to still-unpublished documents unearthed by Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) who then shared them with BuzzFeed News, the Trump administration is fast-tracking facial recognition technology that will monitor “100 percent of all international passengers,” including American citizens, in the top 20 U.S. airports by 2021.

The move comes after President Trump issued an executive order in March 2017 that ordered the rolling out of biometric verification for all travelers crossing U.S. borders, which included a mandate for facial recognition tech. The problem is that the technology isn’t quite there yet. While it works great on people who sign up with Clear and similar programs, when you’re using a “biometric entry-exit system” on some 100 million international passengers a year flying in and out of the largest U.S. airports, despite what you see on CSI or Person of Interest, the technology is still plagued with inaccuracy and bias. A report from 2018, says facial recognition software is inaccurate in up to 98% of cases.

Plus, BuzzFeed News reports that the CBP skipped the public feedback portion of the rule-making process required before adopting technology that would mostly be used on civilians. That means privacy advocates and citizens who aren’t interested in having their face’s scanned when they come and go from their country have not had a chance to weigh in on this.

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