February 10, 2017 -
Two weeks after President Trump signed the controversial immigration and refugee executive order that also called for the expedited completion of a national biometric ID program, the Department of Homeland Security is scrambling to provide airports across the nation with facial recognition software, according to an agency official cited in a report by The Christian Science Monitor.
The facial recognition technology will check the identities of all non-citizens leaving the country to confirm they have not overstayed visas, are not wanted in any criminal or terrorist investigations, and to ensure that they are not attempting to depart with fraudulent documents.
DHS has successfully tested various biometric technologies (facial recognition, mobile fingerprint scanners and iris recognition) at several airports across the country, as well as an outdoor US-Mexico border crossing in Otay Mesa, California.
The department’s plans to expand the biometric surveillance equipment is raising concerns among privacy and civil liberty advocates.
“There needs to be much more of a conversation over what limitations and protections are going to be in place, what this means for the privacy of incoming travelers, how this could affect how Americans are treated when they travel overseas and the information they have to provide, and what the cybersecurity threats are,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, who previously held a position at the DHS Chief of Staff’s Office handling national security and civil rights issues.
A DHS Customs and Border Protection (CBP) spokeswoman said the agency is expediting the development of a biometric exit system “by building upon existing operational platforms” and has found “a feasible solution,” adding that the CBP will scale up “the successful biometric pilots in operation” and will provide timelines and deployment schedules in the “near future”.
Previously reported, President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, which proposes that all non-citizens be subjected to biometric checks when entering or leaving the United States, could lead to widespread logistical issues.