The PJ Tatler

Customs Testing Biometric Scanners at Airports and Border

Via The Verge:

The United States’ Customs and Border Patrol is testing out an ambitious new set of biometric programs, according to a pair of reports in Motherboard. The first leg of the program is a facial recognition system to be used in airport security checks, and is already being tested at Washington’s Dulles airport. The system is designed to check passport photos against a person’s actual face as they pass through customs, producing a result in just five to seven seconds. The system is still experimental and it’s planned with limited data storage, but there are already concerns about privacy issues if the system were ever connected to a larger database.

The other legs of the program are more experimental and potentially far more far-reaching in their effects. As part of the Biometric Entry and Exit program, Customs is testing fingerprint and iris scanners along the Mexican border that would verify when a certain person had left the country. First tested in Iraq and Afghanistan, iris scanning technology has become increasingly common in border crossings, and companies are already marketing the scanners to domestic police. Customs is still gauging how effective the devices will be and deciding whether to deploy them more broadly, but if the system is adopted, it could have troubling implications for citizens’ biometric privacy as they cross the border.

Gotta love the obligatory mention of privacy concerns at the end. I am most definitely not against questions of privacy (see my immediately previous post), I am just not certain that we can adequately police our borders and keep everyone’s feelings unhurt and identities private. In fact, the border is one of the few places that people like me who aren’t huge fans of the federal government wish it would have a more severe and active presence. I would much rather it be harsh at the border than generous with citizens’ tax dollars to the people it let in because it wasn’t.