A more repressive society follows a more intrusive surveillance state. If people want to know what’s possible and already used with facial recognition, I encourage them to look at the horrible Chinese surveillance system that not only uses facial recognition, but also tries to read the emotions of Chinese citizens. Those surveillance measures are unnecessary and do not befit goals for freedom in a country’s general public.
The “PreCheck” program is billed as a convenient service to allow U.S. travelers to “speed through security” at airports. However, the latest proposal released by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reveals the Department of Homeland Security’s greater underlying plan to collect face images and iris scans on a nationwide scale. DHS’s programs will become a massive violation of privacy that could serve as a gateway to the collection of biometric data to identify and track every traveler at every airport and border crossing in the country.
From Pilot Program to National Policy
While this latest plan is limited to the more than 5-million Americans who have chosen to apply for PreCheck, it appears to be part of a broader push within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand its collection and use of biometrics throughout its sub-agencies. For example, in pilot programs in Georgia and Arizona last year, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) used face recognition to capture pictures of travelers boarding a flight out of the country and walking across a U.S. land border and compared those pictures to previous recorded photos from passports, visas, and “other DHS encounters.” In the Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) for those pilot programs, CBP said that, although it would collect face recognition images of all travelers, it would delete any data associated with U.S. citizens. But what began as DHS’s biometric travel screening of foreign citizens morphed, without congressional authorization, into screening of U.S. citizens, too. Now the agency plans to roll out the program to other border crossings, and it says it will retain photos of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents for two weeks and information about their travel for 15 years. It retains data on “non-immigrant aliens” for 75 years.