U.S. House Democrats urge pause on expansion of Biometric Exit facial recognition use

A letter has been sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by 20 House Democrats expressing concerns about the use of facial recognition technology to scan American citizens under the Biometric Exit program and calling it “an unprecedented and unauthorized expansion of the agency’s authority.”

The Hill reports that CBP has confirmed receipt of the letter, and that representatives Susan Wild (D-Pa.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) led the group in penning the criticism.

The letter asks for clarification of the laws and statutes granting DHS the authority to use facial recognition on American citizens, what efforts have been made to notify travelers about the program and its opt-out procedures, the nature of the contracts between CBP and airport and airline partners. They also ask, invoking the recent breach of contract and personal data be a CBP contractor, how many audits have been conducted and what they have found.

“Given the continued false matches and algorithmic bias problems in facial recognition technology and the use of this technology on U.S. citizens, we call on the Department of Homeland Security to allow for public input and address transparency, privacy and security concerns before expanding this program,” the representatives write in the letter.

House Oversight Committee hearings on facial recognition have revealed significant bipartisan agreement that regulation and law have not kept up with the technology, and The Hill notes that Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has said potential legislation will be compiled after a third hearing.

Aviation industry stakeholders say passengers rarely opt out of biometric boarding processes, and are highly motivated to find ways to improve efficiency and increase their capacity as air traffic increases.

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