Following in the footsteps of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which assigned $1 billion to fund a facial recognition program to scan the faces of all passengers, including Americans with no criminal record, who board airplane flights exiting the country.
All this money is being spent to build a national biometric database without any justification by Congress or DHS. According to DHS, airport face scans are intended to verify the identities of travelers exiting the country, as well as reveal persons traveling with a fake ID. But even as these extravagant funds are being spent, DHS itself has repeatedly questioned how much more value biometric air exit would add to bolster current security operations.
Here’s how an airport biometric system works:
“At Boston’s Logan International Airport, travelers at one international boarding gate will be surprised that they are being told to stop before what looks like a sophisticated camera. But it’s more than just a camera—the device compares each traveler’s face to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) biometric database to verify her identity and flags as many as 1 in 25 travelers for further scrutiny. These face scans have been deployed at eight other airports, too. In Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, Houston, and Washington, D.C., travelers departing on certain international flights have their faces scanned by DHS.”
The legality of the DHS face recognition exit program is being questioned since Congress has never explicitly authorized collecting biometric data from Americans at U.S. borders. Also troubling is the fact that DHS hasn’t even begun to formulate a federally-mandated rulemaking process before starting up its airport biometric scanning and data collection operations.
Particularly concerning is the high failure rate of the DHS system – the one costing a billion dollars if you recall. Metrics from DHS state that up to 1 in 25 travelers with valid identification were flagged and rejected in error by the costly and rights-depriving ID equipment.
DHS is also uncertain about how many imposters its system will ferret out, which is the stated principal goal.
As this writer cautioned before, both government and private organizations are trotting out intrusive biometrics programs without the public’s prior knowledge or consent. All of this activity is being packaged as a benefit to the common good, to create “a safer and more personalized planet with facial recognition technology” and “to test and explore the use of new technologies to ensure we’re employing the most effective security procedures to provide a safe and wonderful experience for our guests.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) want to help create the safe, new, wonderful experience of a society where no citizen with no criminal record is protected from biometric identification at every turn: while shopping, walking down a street, driving or passing through a port of entry.
For the past five years, both the FBI and ICE have been helping themselves, without legal permission, to state driver’s license databases. The goal of these two federal law-enforcement agencies is to build a better biometrics system:
“Thousands of facial-recognition requests, internal documents and emails over the past five years, obtained through public-records requests by researchers with Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology and provided to The Washington Post, reveal that federal investigators have turned state departments of motor vehicles databases into the bedrock of an unprecedented surveillance infrastructure.”
Just as with the DHS airport exit face scanning program, the FBI and ICE appropriations of state residents’ most personal identifying information – facial structure – has not been authorized by either Congress or state legislators. This blatant disregard for law and order has caught the attention of both Republican and Democratic leadership.
Commenting particularly on Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records, House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) revealed:
“Law enforcement’s access of state databases is often done in the shadows with no consent.”
Ohio’s GOP Rep. Jim Jordan was outraged when he heard about the illicit federal data exploitation of private citizens’ identifying information:
“They’ve just given access to that to the FBI. No individual signed off on that when they renewed their driver’s license, got their driver’s licenses. They didn’t sign any waiver saying, ‘Oh, it’s okay to turn my information, my photo, over to the FBI.’ No elected officials voted for that to happen.”
Many critics say that blanket federal seizures of state-level identification information treat innocent people as criminals. This presumption of guilt with no probable cause to suspect any wrong-doing violates the basic tenets of American justice: innocent until proven guilty.
In response to the various federal agencies which have already adopted illegal ID-harvesting as par for the course, state lawmakers are instituting bans on biometric data collection systems in their jurisdictions.
The municipalities of San Francisco, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts have each prohibited police and public organizations from using face recognition tools. At issue are the overreach of government authority and a breach of public trust.
On July 10, 2019, a House Committee Meeting on Homeland Security will hear testimony from representatives from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA, which operates under DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which also operates under DHS) and the Secret Service (which is another arm of the DHS). Presumably, all of these federal officials will claim they are acting righteously.
Probably, all of these federal agencies will seek more money to fund their illegal operations intent on building a national biometric identification system to rival that in Communist China.
If life under a totalitarian police state doesn’t appeal to you, do drop a line to your elected representatives.
Get involved now or prepare to suffer the long-term and possibly irreversible consequences of continued federal overreach whose goal is to pilfer everyone’s personal information without official permission to do so, all in the name of unproven gains to national security.