Facial recognition nets first imposter at U.S. airport

Facial recognition has resulted in the identification and detention of an individual attempting to enter the United States with an assumed identity at a Washington airport, the first time the technology has detected an imposter at a border crossing.

On the third day since the deployment of a facial recognition system at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), a man travelling from Brazil presented a French passport to an officer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), but was found not to match the photo included in the passport. When the individual was referred to a secondary comprehensive examination, he became visibly nervous, and an identification card from the Republic of Congo, found by CBP to be his legitimate credential, was found concealed in his shoe.

“Facial recognition technology is an important step forward for CBP in protecting the United States from all types of threats,” said Casey Durst, CBP’s Director of the Baltimore Field Office. “Terrorists and criminals continually look for creative methods to enter the U.S. including using stolen genuine documents. The new facial recognition technology virtually eliminates the ability for someone to use a genuine document that was issued to someone else.”

Facial recognition was deployed for entry screening at IAD on August 20, making it the 14th airport in the U.S. to adopt the technology.

In the announcement, CBP emphasized that the technology is still being assessed, and that the agency is committed to safeguarding the privacy of travelers with Privacy Impact Assessments, strong technical security safeguards, and the use of a limited amount of personally identifiable information in the biometric process.

CBP announced the beginning of Phase II of its Traveler Verification Service demonstration, in partnership with the TSA. The biometric entry/exit program will eventually be extended to land border crossings as well.

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