Trump administration wants to use facial recognition at airports

U.S. citizens will be required to participate.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to use facial recognition technology to identify international travelers at airports, according to a recent filing.

The purpose of the facial recognition technology would be to identify those coming in and out of the country and catch criminals and known terrorists, the filing states.

"To facilitate the implementation of a seamless biometric entry-exit system that uses facial recognition and to help prevent persons attempting to fraudulently use U.S. travel documents and identify criminals and known or suspected terrorists, DHS is proposing to amend the regulations to provide that all travelers, including U.S. citizens, may be required to be photographed upon entry and/or departure," the filing reads.

A woman sets up her facial recognition as she looks at her Apple iPhone X at an Apple store in New York, U.S., November 3, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Non-citizens have been required for decades to have their fingerprints scanned and photos taken at airport security in the U.S., though U.S. citizens were able to opt-out of that procedure. Under the new requirements, however, U.S. citizens will have to partake in the facial recognition system.


Customs and Border Patrol launched a facial recognition system called Simplified Arrival at Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Sept. 25.

"Facial comparison technology is used because it seamlessly integrates into the airport environment and is easy to use for travelers and facilitates the flow of legitimate travel," CBP said in a statement.

"Face comparison technology also strengthens National Security by reducing the risk that an imposter uses a lost or stolen travel document to enter or exit the United States. The technology enables CBP officers to focus on the traveler interview rather than administrative tasks," the statement continued.

Others are not convinced that facial recognition technology should be used on U.S. citizens in U.S. airports.

"[DHS] should immediately withdraw plans to force Americans to undergo facial recognition and hand over their biometric information," Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) told CBS News.


"This proposal would amount to disturbing government coercion, and as the recent data breach at [CBP] shows, Homeland Security cannot be trusted to keep our information safe and secure. I will soon introduce legislation to ensure that innocent American citizens are never forced to hand over their facial recognition information," he continued in reference to a June data breach in which travelers' photos were stolen.

China has come under scrutiny for posing a threat to individual privacy, especially for the Uhgyur Muslim minority group in Xinjiang, who are subject to continuous Chinese surveillance.

The country on Monday introduced mandatory facial recognition technology for all new mobile phone users, which the majority of citizens use to access the internet.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Fransisco-based nonprofit digital rights group, said it is "easy for companies and agencies to tout the convenience of this sort of massive data collection and sharing scheme."