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2021 a good year for facial recognition at US ports


The U.S. government says it doubled the number of international travelers who were processed last year using facial recognition tools.

Forty-eight million people entering or leaving the country in fiscal 2021 were subject to face biometric comparisons in a program called Simplified Arrival, according to the Customs and Border Protection agency. The previous year, 23 million international travelers were processed.

The program, started in 2018, is designed to find people who are using fraudulent or stolen IDs and travel documents. More than 179 million travelers passed through one of the nation’s entry ports last year.

According to the CBP‘s just-released annual report, 46 alleged imposters have been identified trying to enter the United States at airports since program officials compared their first image. Another 916 have been spotted trying to enter at pedestrian stations.

This year, like last year, the government claims an accuracy rate of 97 percent. Live images are compared to “a very small gallery of high-quality” photographs that people have allowed the government to use for identification.

As of February 2022, 199 airports participated in Simplified Arrival; 32 airports were using facial recognition for exits from the nation. Honolulu’s Inouye International Airport, which is part of Simplified Arrival, is preparing to identify outbound travelers with facial recognition, as well.

Biometric screening continues to stir anger among some who feel the federal government is overstepping its authority, or even performing devious social experiments, with facial recognition at ports of entry, as in persistent complaints from the fringe about the signage at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

This post was updated at 9:38pm Eastern on April 18, 2022 to clarify the nature of the allegations against SEA Airport.

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